Monday, 2 June 2014

Guest post - Shady Dell Music & Memories


I would like to introduce to you a fellow blogger by the name of Tom, who hosts the Shady Dell Music & Memories @ blogspot. Tom, aka Shady Del, it is my pleasure to present you on writing the rapids.

Here you go......

The Shady Dell, upon which my blog Shady Dell Music & Memories is based, was a popular hangout for teenagers located on the outskirts of York, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

The Dell consisted of a restaurant on the first floor of an old three story brick house and a dance hall attached to a barn.  For decades, beginning in the mid 1940s, the Dell was owned and operated by John Ettline and his wife Helen. In the 60s, the Dell became my home away from home and I, as one of the venue’s regular patrons, was known as a “Dell rat.”

This is the true story of a carefully guarded secret that was kept at the Shady Dell for decades, a secret hidden in the attic on the third floor of the house.

John Ettline routinely carried a nightstick in a holster as he made his nightly rounds of the Dell. The logical explanation would be that he armed himself with a billy club to subdue unruly guests in the event that a scuffle broke out in the dance hall or parking lot. However, there was another reason why John carried a club.

John and Helen were secretly operating a safe house, a shelter for battered and abused women. (Helen herself was a fugitive from an abusive relationship when she married John.) The Ettlines allowed women who were victims of domestic violence to stay in the attic until they could find shelter elsewhere. It boggles my mind to think of myself and hundreds of other Dell rats singing, dancing and partying down below whilst women in crisis were hunkered down in the attic out of harm's way, a scene reminiscent of The Diary of Anne Frank.  In essence the Shady Dell provided the same services to women in crisis that government agencies and organizations offer today.

Only a few members of the Ettline family knew that the Dell doubled as a secret shelter for women. It was feared that if too many people knew, word would inevitably leak out and male abusers would converge on the Dell, confront John, and try to drag their women home. To prepare for a worst case scenario, John Ettline spoke boldly and carried a big stick.

Following the attempted assassination of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, I learned a fascinating fact about the Secret Service.  When shots ring out, most of us instinctively move in the opposite direction.  SS agents are trained to move toward the source of the shooting and place themselves directly in the line of fire.  If you think about it, John and Helen were much the same. They moved toward trouble, not away from it. Instead of sitting back and waiting for a social service agency to step in and handle the problem, the Ettlines assumed responsibility for the community's battered women and teenage runaways.  John and Helen didn't wait for the holiday season to get into the spirit of giving. They opened their doors and their hearts.  Their kindness, compassion and generosity kept the holiday spirit alive all year ‘round!

Thanks Tom - that was a fascinating read and now I truly know the meaning when 'secrets in the attic' is bandied about. As your story attests it was for a very good reason - and I am sure those women appreciated the haven created by the wonderful Ettlines.

I love your analogy about the Ettlines running towards trouble; how true placing themselves directly in the line of fire and not only facing the problem head on but also dealing with it at the same time. It's a very pertinent story representing the climate of the 60s at the time with the enormous social change sweeping industrialised nations.

Thanks too for supplying below photos - the beautiful attic and haven, courtesy of Shady Dell Music & Memories:

The Shady Dell 

Tom, aka Shady Del, a regular patron at the Shady Dell and known as a "Dell Rat"


  1. Thank you very much, dear Allie-Millie, for giving me the opportunity to appear on Writing The Rapids and share one of my stories about the Shady Dell, my home away from home in the mid and late 60s. Even then, in the mid 20th century, the Ettlines were already part of a vanishing breed of Americans. They took it upon themselves to get involved and help kids from broken homes and women fleeing violent husbands and boyfriends. Seems few people today have the time, the energy and the will to roll up their sleeves and risk getting their hands dirty to help a stranger in need.

    Thank you again, my dear friend, for welcoming me to your fine blog. I wish you a very happy week ahead, dear Allie-Millie!

  2. Hi Shady Del Knight,

    It's a pleasure to have you guest post and gain insights into a period of time in another country. Be assured there are still some very great people doing wonderful work for vulnerable people as I have seen this first hand in my local community from ethical school teachers, counsellors, youth workers and ordinary families opening their doors, lending a hand. Stay tuned for more posts on living the best life you can, yours @ writing the rapids.

  3. Wow! I have more and more respect for this fine couple each time I read of their community contributions. Great job, Shady!! Great choice for guest blogger!


  4. Yes! Tom sure knows how to relay great stories of the Shady Dell in the years gone by. Such a history that place has as we all get to read about it (and the people who lived there) in Tom's wonderful Blog, Shady Dell Music and Memories. Tom's elaborate writings and memories help paint the picture of yesteryear and his coming of age years. The Ettlines were wonderful /respected people in our town of York , PA. Their acts of kindness benefited so many. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting John and Helen but , I have met many of their friends and family members throughout the years. It's with great pride that I can (almost) consider myself a dell rat, too! Thanks , Shady for bringing the dell "back to life" for so many of us!
    Toni Deroche

  5. Hi all,

    Yes your comments are well placed and it's great to revisit past times, especially when they're very fond memories. It's interesting the style of homes built in York pre 60s and is the influence from the Victorian era. Some homes here display similar features with the curved effect on the front protruding rectangle windows; replicating a style from a different era. That's all for now - Allie-Millie

  6. God bless John and Helen for stepping in to help so many people.


  7. John and Helen lived a life of beauty and kindness. They are a wonderful example of what we all could be and do. Thank you for sharing their lives with the world here and on your blog, Shady.

  8. Wow! I don't think I ever knew of this side of John and Helen. It makes me admire them even more. What huge hearts they had. They didn't talk about doing good, they did it; and lived it. Thank you, friend, for sharing this with us~

  9. This is wonderful! i really enjoyed reading this!!! I've read and listened to a lot of music and writing he has shared, but i've never heard this story. what a beautiful picture of human kindness and concern to help others. the pictures included were remarkable.
    ~Abigail and Daisy

  10. Kathleen Mae SchneiderThursday, June 05, 2014

    Hello, Allie-Millie! Actually, the Shady Dell attic was a haven of one kind or another from the very beginning, although not necessarily a secret one.

    When my grandfather, George Andrew Brown, built the house over a century ago that would later be owned by the Ettlines, the attic room was used as a playroom for his many children. George's last living child, my mother - Margaret Elizabeth Brown Schneider who is now 102 years old - remembers it as a place where she and her sisters spent much of their early childhood pretending, taking care of their dolls as if they were real live babies.

    Later, when one of George's friends hit upon hard times and needed a place to live, the attic room was given to him and the children had to move their toys and dolls elsewhere.

    The second photograph shows the house as Mother remembers it, with the second story porch used to sleep on hot summer nights.

    The first photograph proves my family's involvement with the Shady Dell has come full circle. The girls are two of my mother's great-grandchildren, pausing to rest in the old attic room during a last visit to the ancestral home during an open house. They imagined what it must have been like when their great grandma was a little girl, playing with her dolls in that very space.

    The photo is very moving to me because all those years ago that little girl had no way of knowing that someday she would give birth to me and my two siblings, and live long enough to see her great-grandchildren return to her special attic playroom.

    Thank you for your revelation, Tom, and to you Allie-Millie, for giving Tom the opportunity to make it known. In the Shady Lady's many incarnations, she never received the honor that you both bestow upon her by enabling the retelling of her story to the world. Mother and I are grateful to you both, and to the Ettlines, for opening the attic in the old house to those in need of its shelter.

    There is also another strange coincidence here involving names. My grandmother, Mother's mother and George's wife - the first woman to live in the Shady Dell house - was also known as Allie. It gets even better. One of my mother's younger sisters was named Mildred, but they called her Millie! Small world, isn't it?

  11. Hi Kathleen,

    Many thanks for posting and it's an honour to share the Shady Lady's story of sheltering vulnerable women. The Ettlines were progressive thinkers, before their time and practising what we call now days - social justice. The photo captures the essence of their story, evoking lightness, innocence and purity through its framing, with the light streaming through the windows - well done. It's wonderful your mother's longevity has enabled her and you to share this photo. That there is a connection with Allie and Millie is also wonderfully coincidental and makes for a curious, yet positive twist - thank you for sharing, Kathleen. I'll leave with this haiku, fitting with the imagery and the Shady Lady's (Ettlines') story - still dawn, dew on lawn, reflecting serenity, light shining through me. Yours Allie-Millie