Is that Elvis in the York Fair mural? Linked in with neat history stuff – Jan. 25, 2011
This is another in a series of the colorized murals on the walls of Metro Bank offices in the Central Pennsylvania area. This painting covers a wall on the bank’s York Crossing Office in West Manchester Township, circa 1955. But there’s a story to this one, as there is on the mural in the Red Lion Metro Bank office. An Elvis Presley look-alike appears at left, center. Or is that Elvis? For more on this mystery, see additional photo and caption below. Other posts that show Metro Bank murals: Memorable Avalong eatery and On the Square in York, Pa. and World War II homecoming parade.
York countian Herb Grissinger, center, is seen in the crowd in a photo – now a colorized mural – taken at the York Fair. York Daily Record/Sunday News columnist Mike Argento wrote in 2004 that Grissinger was working in the bank one day when he saw himself in the photo. Someone at the bank disagreed, saying it was Elvis. According to Argento’s column, Grissinger was convinced it was him. The simple explanation is that it was Herb Grissinger. A more complex notion is that it was indeed, Elvis before Elvis became, well, Elvis, appearing anywhere and everywhere. Here’s one time that Elvis was, in fact, in York County: The real Elvis sighted in York County in 1956.
And the following column by Mike Argento, YDR, 10/21/2011, indicates that Elvis could have been in county before he became Elvis:
“Here’s the thing.”
And that’s how the story begins, as Sam Sutherland tells it.
“Here’s the thing,” he says. “I was in the seventh grade, or so. It was around there.”
It was the summer of ’53, he believes, when Elvis came to the farm.
It was before Elvis was Elvis. He was just a skinny kid from down south, Memphis, dark eyes, dark hair, slicked up in a kind of pompadour. He wasn’t a big deal then, just another singer hanging out with Hank Snow. It was before he walked into Sun Records in Memphis and became an American icon.
It’s a long story, and it begins with Sutherland’s father, John. John Sutherland was a fiddle player, pretty well-known in bluegrass circles in York County and beyond. Sam learned to play fiddle from his father, branching out later to pick up the guitar and the mandolin. That was their entertainment back then.
They lived out on a farm near York New Salem, and that’s what everybody did, played music. Sutherland still plays. He’s 73 now, retired, has a place in Spring Grove, and he still goes to bluegrass jams in Craley and Gettysburg.
It’s not like it used to be.
When he was a kid, it was the heyday of country music, and York County was a hotbed for musicians and fans. The biggest stars of country music — Hank Snow, Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Jimmy Martin — all came here for shows at places like Sunset Park and Valley View Park and Williams Grove.
Hank Williams played Sunset Park, pulling up in his Cadillac, the same Cadillac in which his life would end a few years down the road in West Virginia. It must have been an impressive car, as it was mentioned in all of the accounts of Williams’ visit.
The shows were big-time, Sutherland remembered, the crowds huge. But in a way, the shows were also kind of intimate. The artists would mingle with the crowd and glad hand and chat, sometimes sharing a picnic lunch or have a cold beverage. Some of the singers and musicians got to know people very well, so well that York County was like a second home.
And that’s how it came about that Elvis visited the Sutherland farm.
His older sister, Anna Mae, made it happen.
Anna Mae went to a lot of the shows with her friend, Elzora Harold, Sutherland recalled. After a show in Baltimore, they got to meet Hank Snow and got along well.
It didn’t hurt that, according to Sutherland, his sister and her friend were drop-dead gorgeous and attracted musicians like flies to a cow pie. Musicians are dogs, in that regard.
Snow always made a point of saying hello to Sutherland’s sister and her friend when he played the area. It was all very innocent, at least on the girls’ part.
Sutherland couldn’t vouch for Hank Snow’s intentions. He always seemed to be a gentleman, and if he had deeper desires, he kept them buried. At least around Sutherland and his family.
One time — this would have been the summer between the seventh and eighth grades, Sutherland remembered — Hank Snow came out to the farm to visit with his sister. He had his band with him, and among them was a skinny kid — dark eyes, dark hair, slicked up. The kid had been singing with Snow, doing a few shows here and there. He had been a big fan of country music and was a pretty decent singer. Least that’s what they said.
It was a nice visit. Not much happened. The kid didn’t make that much of an impression. Sutherland seems to recall that he was kind of quiet and respectful, not at all what you would think.
A couple of years later, Elvis appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and that was that. Sutherland recognized the kid. He never realized that that skinny kid he met at the farm would become that big of a deal.
Of course, he turned out to be bigger than a big deal, bigger than Hank Snow, bigger than Hank Williams, bigger than country music. He became legend.
“When I met him, he was just some kid with Hank Snow,” Sutherland said. “But he went up like wild fire. Back then, he didn’t seem like a big deal. He was just another guy.”
Other neat stuff from all over … .
The York Daily Record/Sunday News’ website, www.ydr.com, recently passed its 15th anniversary.
The New York Times’ and former York Daily Record editor Patrick LaForge, who was instrumental in that ydr.com launch, recently wrote about the introduction to a relative handful of viewers on a snowy evening 15 years ago.
As it turns out, the Times’ also launched its website in January 1996.
Here is part of Pat’s blog post about the York launch… .
“Design of the York Digital Record had been proceeding with slow deliberation around the time the series was written. Then, on Jan. 9, 1996, a blizzard paralyzed the region, and The Daily Record couldn’t deliver papers (the state ordered all vehicles off the highways and local roads were impassable). I rushed the “York Digital Record” online with summaries of snow emergency information. A week later, the snow melted and ice blocked the Susquehanna River. which overflowed its banks. We posted flood updates online too. Traffic was in the high three figures, and we were pleased. We began publishing a daily headline and selected articles. I would update the site at midnight at the end of my shift as night city editor, after we put the print edition to bed.”
And by the way, we’re proud of Pat’s accomplishments and glad to have our name on his resume. Ditto for Mike Abrams, another former YDR editor on the Times. (York has enjoyed other connections to the New York Times.)
New museum in tough times: Turkey Hill, dairy and convenience store chain, is opening a museum in a high-profile area near Route 30 in Columbia, Lancaster County. Details here.
Recommended blog post of the day: Yorkblogger Scott Mingus wrote this in Cannonball: Famed Maryland saddle designer arrested in Hanover as Confederate courier
Forum of the day: Exchangers continue to share their shoe store memories.
– All York Town Square posts from the start. Then use “find” function on browser to search for keywords.
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and Metro Bank murals, you get this.