York Town Square

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Miata, swimming pool suggest changes in small-town Stewartstown

Car into pool

A Miata is submerged a Stewartstown swimming pool after rolling down a hill. (See three more photos below.) The image and accompanying story has attracted widespread Web attention. Fortunately, no one was hurt in this car-into-swimming-pool incident. Background post: ‘Yesteryears’ Stewartstown-area York County sites – Part I, ‘Yesteryears’ – Part II and German POWs: ‘They worked cheaper than We did’.

A story headlined “Convertible belly-flops into pool” drew the heaviest Web traffic in memory to ydr.com this week.

The elements of the story – an unoccupied sportscar rolling down a hill into a large backyard pool – are patently compelling in themselves.

But the presence of sports cars and pools instead of tractors and swimming holes suggests the changes that are taking place in and around this southeastern York County town of 1,752… .

Another view of the submerged Miata.

The completion of Interstate 83 in the late 1950s spawned the Maryland migration. This movement really took off after 1980 as Marylanders learned about inexpensive land and housing about 45 minutes from downtown Baltimore.
The influence of the Marylanders gained a critical mass in the early 1990s when the educational expectations of the newcomers clashed with those of thrifty natives. The Marylanders expected more from their schools and were willing to pay higher taxes for them. Vitriolic taxpayer groups formed to get their respective candidates on the school boards.
This is not to say that nothing ever happened in Stewartstown, a busy railroad and market center for decades.
For example, in 1917, the bands binding the town’s elevated 45,000-gallon wooden water tower snapped.
According to “Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, Then and Now,” the 180-ton tank fell 75 feet making a hole 20 feet wide and 3 feet deep. A second floor bathroom of a nearby home was deluged. Water spread a half mile, demolishing gardens, killing chickens and filling basements with mud. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Six years later, a Stewartstown Railroad passenger car became uncoupled and drifted down the tracks. An approaching freight train telescoped the passenger car. About a half dozen people were injured in the crash but none killed.
The town’s biggest challenge came with the arrival of about 2,500 German prisoners of war in the World War II summers of 1944 and 1945.
Many in town were torn. We were fighting the Germans, and here they are bringing the enemy within the town’s gates. But they were boys who deserved to be treated as well as the scores of Stewartstown-area fighting men in Europe and the South Pacific.
Townspeople rose to the occasion in accommodating these German soldiers as they became orchard and cannery workers. In fact, those Camp Stewartstown prisoners yet alive were invited back to the borough in the early 1990s for a reunion.
The Stewartstown book notes that when a venture fails, in business or otherwise, sadness sets in because people are affected. “Please read with compassion any such happenings,” the book urged.
And the story of the meandering Miata should be read with a pause of thanks that no one was injured.
But it’s a story of a changing town, a town where drifting sportscars have replaced wayward railcars.
It’s perhaps the story of York County.

Efforts under way to remove the car from the pool.

The car is lifted free.

For scores of other Stewartstown-related York Town Square posts, visit: Stewartstown.