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Shady Dell was home away from home for many York County teens in ’60s

The Shady Dell was a south side hangout for decades before closing the early 1990s. The building is now privately owned on Starcross Road, south of York. Background posts: The Oaks: ‘I often look up there … and think about how nice it was’, Stadium will be site of Oaks music reunion, The Four bloggers write.

The Shady Dell was Tom Anderson’s home away from home when growing up in the York area in the 1960s.
The 1967 Dallastown Area High School grad now living in Lakeland, Fla., e-mailed some memories of that hangout.
Here are some excerpts from Tom’s e-mail (shadell6667@msn.com):

Downtown York, as it looked during the heyday of the Shady Dell and White Oak Park in the 1960s. The photographer was probably atop the former Futer Bros. building on the square’s southeast angle.
Every couple of years, driven by curiosity and a fervent desire to reconnect with my roots, I Google “Shady Dell York, Pa.” This year’s search led me to your YDR blog and entries made during March and April of 2007. You wrote:

This Web-based historical content means, for example, that a former Yorker enjoying the Florida sun with a computer on his lap can remain active in York’s historical community.

That’s me you’re talking about, Jim. I moved from York to the greater Tampa Bay area 24 years ago; yet, my thoughts often return to my youth in southcentral Pa. and, in particular, to my “home away from home,” the Shady Dell.
I received a call this week from my cousin in York, Bill Lewis. He notified me of the upcoming Class of ’66 White Oaks Reunion slated for October 18th.
As Bill described it and as I am sure you know, the scope of the project has steadily widened to include not only the York High class of ”66 but alumni from all area schools and classes; and while the focus of the event is on “the Oaks” the invite list has also grown to encompass vintage car enthusiasts, my old friend Phil Schwartz and his KRC gang and people of all ages who simply want to remember or learn about growing up during the ’60s in York.
My earliest memory of White Oak Park does not revolve around a ’60s battle of the bands. It is a memory that dates back to the previous decade when, as a child, I marched around the floor of the pavilion with perhaps a hundred other people participating in a cake walk. When the band suddenly stopped playing, the person standing closest to a predetermined spot was declared the winner of the donated pastry. It was my church’s annual Sunday school picnic held on more than one occasion at White Oak.
While I was no stranger to the Oaks during my childhood or my teens, it was the legendary Shady Dell that became my venue of choice. You wrote:

So, I made the point in a York Sunday News column that White Oak Park (The Oaks) was to the north side what Shady Dell (The Dell) was to the south side of York.

That’s a very important point, Jim. I lived on the south side in Hillcrest (think Suburban Bowlerama, TV-43, Queensgate). Using the back roads, it was only a five minute drive from my house to the Dell. The Oaks was a considerably longer haul.
In addition, the Dell was open seven days a week. You could drop by in the afternoon and stay until the rooster crowed. It wasn’t only a matter of convenience, though. To me and thousands of other young people the Dell was a major influence in our lives. The place was pure magic. It was an addictive narcotic. Crossing the threshold at John Ettline’s entrance booth produced an immediate adrenaline rush. Like a Pied Piper perched atop Violet Hill, the Dell lured kids from all over York and surrounding counties with the promise of fun and excitement.
From the fall of ’65 until the fall of ’67 when I left town to attend Penn State, I practically lived at the Dell, making the pilgrimage to Mecca an estimated 700 times. Enough metaphors? I sometimes skipped meals at home, preferring instead to chat with Helen while eating a sub at her lunch counter. There were even times when I took along books and slide rule and did my homework at the Dell.
Bottom line is this:
I’m delighted to discover that interest in the ’50s-’60s period of York county history remains high. The buzz about White Oaks in particular will continue to ramp up as the Class of ’66 reunion approaches. I ask you to consider, Jim, that this might be the perfect time to rekindle interest in the Shady Dell to coincide with the White Oaks bash.
No discussion of ’60s teen hangouts would be complete without the Oaks. In the interest of balance and fairness, however, we need to make sure people know that the Shady Dell was of equal if not greater importance to generations of teens. As such, it deserves to be part of this year’s nostalgic celebration at Brooks Robinson field, and I will email the reunion folks and urge them to at least mention the Dell on their website, in their proposed video and in the booklet they plan to distribute at the reunion.
Recently, I completed work on an autobiographical account of my experiences at the Shady Dell. I wanted to get it written before the memories began to fade. I just wanted to let you know that I am here as a source if you ever decide to put together an article about the Dell.
I read Mike Argento’s May 1993 article, Shady Dell: ‘It was like family’ written around the time that Dell memorabilia was being auctioned. I must admit that I raised my eyebrows in surprise when I read the sentence that summed up the ’60s Dell experience by stating that it was a place to listen to the Beatles and talk about the war. While Mike’s article is a fine one and I am grateful that he wrote it, that particular sentence, IMHO, does not accurately reflect what the Dell was all about – at least not the Dell that I knew in the mid ’60s. That depiction of the ’60s Dell misses the most important point about the place. It overlooks a unique phenomenon that was unfolding at the time, one so eloquently described by Dave Zang of Towson, Md. in assembling his forthcoming documentary about the Magnificent Men.
Tim Russert was a few months younger than me when he died one week ago today. It was Tim’s sudden passing more than anything else that prompted me to contact you. For years now I’ve been waiting for the right time and the right place to share my York memories and stories. Obviously, if I wait too long there’s a chance they could be lost forever. I hope you will consider what I might bring to the table. I would be honored to contribute in some small way to the pool of knowledge about ’50s/’60s York and, most importantly to me, the Shady Dell.

*Edited, 1/27/14