York Town Square

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Memories about ‘The Oaks’ pile up – Part II

This image, appearing on the Class of ’66 White Oaks Reunion site, comes from an earlier era but shows the variety of ways that Manchester Township’s White Oak Park was used in its heyday. The building here is playing host to a Blaw-Knox picnic. In the 1960s, rock groups played music for hundreds of teen dancers. Background posts: ‘Dell rat’ blogs about southside York hangout where owners put out welcome mat, York-area full of memory-spawning landmarks, Memories of ‘The Oaks’ pile – Part I

For whatever reason, photos of White Oak Park are rare.
Phil Schwartz found that out when trying to find photos of bands playing at this north York teen hangout in the 1960s. He is producing a compilation album.
Now Homewood Suites on Masonic Drive, whose new footprint covers part of the former Oaks grounds, is collecting photos and other information from the park during its heyday from the 1940s to 1960s. Hotel spokesmen are asking folks with such memories or memorabilia to call 717-434-1800.
In discussing this dearth of photos, some former Oakers mused that perhaps photos were rare because White Oak Park on band nights was a place where (unfortunately)boys were boys and documentation of certain activities might not have been preferable.

Also added in is the fact that young people in those days simply did not carry around cameras as they do today. Most teens have cell phones with camera capabilities in their pockets and purses.
As I point out in my York Sunday News column (9/14/08), The Oaks – a fascinating place then and now – point to other changes in York County’s past:

For many years, Jane Heller’s grandfather, Oliver Lease, ran White Oak Park, that nostalgia-inducing recreational locale along North George Street.
Jane remembered a small cottage on the grounds where her grandparents, Ollie and Ada, lived during the summer months.
And the park’s merry-go-round with “flying horses.”
“I remember well as a child riding and learning to jump on and off at slow speeds,” she wrote in an e-mail.
An American Indian group often gave shows. And the Blaw-Knox (successor to York Safe and Lock and predecessor of Harley-Davidson) picnics were big events and always excited her grandparents.
“I often look up there, when going north, and think about how nice it was,” Jane wrote, “before development hit it . . .”
* * *
There’s just something about The Oaks that evokes the beat of nostalgia.
Particularly the 1960s and the weekly battles of local bands.
A York Daily Record story in 2007 credits WSBA’s Chris Huber with starting weekly dances to the sound of live music.
Things started slow. Then came The Del-Chords.
“From the time we opened up that night, the line to get in was there until 11 o’clock,” he recalled. “After that, we ran dances Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
The Del-Chords’ rhythm and blues playlist was gaining fans. Later, some members formed The Magnificent Men.
Those memorable days at the park lasted until the tumultuous summer of 1969.
* * *
To Edward “Ike” Bowers, The Oaks was a place to see friends, meet new ones, learn new dances and enjoy live music.
“The ‘Oaks’ had an aura about it that took you to a better place,” the former member of the Del-Chords said in response to a post on theYork Town Square blog.
He remembered a limbo contest where one participant snaked his way under a one-foot pole.
And he recalled Huber halting a set for fear that the building would collapse under the weight of the dancing crowd: “To paraphrase the title of my first lead, ‘White Oaks, Why Did You Have to Go?’ ”
Well, the York High Class of ’66 is bringing back The Oaks and its bands to Sovereign Bank Stadium for a reunion on Oct. 18.
That gathering is shifting The Oaks several miles south on George Street because its old site is covered with storage units, a rental parking area and a new luxury hotel.
Those crowding The Oaks dance floor in the heady ’60s could never have foreseen that their generation would gain such affluence that they can demand high-end hotels or would accumulate so much stuff as to swamp their oversized houses and require off-site storage.
Or predicted the need to rent fenced-in space to park their boats and RVs.
Or that they would move so often that temporary storage would be necessary.
Or the marriage to the girl they vowed to cherish forever would end. Then their remarriage would mean combining the stuff of two households, forcing storage units to crop up as The Oaks came down.
Just to get to the Oaks, the guys had to sneak dad’s coffee money from his secret stash to buy gas for the wheels whose needle perpetually rested south of “E.”
Those days when The Oaks dance floor creaked and groaned seemed different from today, even if they presented their own problems.
The early ’60s when the good symbolism of mixed- race groups like The Del-Chords reigned locally devolved into times when the races separated. The race riots of 1969, just for one example, ended those magical days when the driving rock beat pounded the hills of Manchester Township.
Still, the good old days were chock-full of good moments.
“Great memories,” Linda (Dabler) Barnard commented on York Town Square. “We should be back in the day when things were so much simpler.
“Miss those days.”
The York High Class of 1966 has set a White Oak Reunion Party for 5 p.m., Oct. 18, at Sovereign Bank Stadium, York.
The reunion is designed for those from all area schools who shared the fun and music of The Oaks.
For details, visit: www.yorkclassof66.com . According to the Web site, Phil Schwartz is using the party to introduce his two-disc “White Oak — Battle of the Bands,” original music from the bands that played at The Oaks.
The Oaks was the 1960s teen hangout on York’s north side, and the Shady Dell served as its counterpart on the south side.
York County native Tom Anderson, an avowed Shady Dell enthusiast, has captured memories of those years on his new Web site: Shady Dell Music & Memories, shadydell.blogspot.com.

A sampling of posts relating to White Oak Park or Shady Dell:
Just try to resist this memory-tugging photo of White Oak Park.
Stadium will be site of The Oaks music reunion
Wanted: Old photos of teen hangout.
Memorabilia from ‘the Oaks’ hard to come by.
Memories of The Oaks pile up.
Memories of The Oaks pile up – Part II
The Dell: ‘It was like family’.
White Oak Park welcomed Blaw-Knox workers .