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'Dell rats' share memories through the decades during open house at Shady Dell

April 16--YORK, Pa. -- As one visitor put it, it seemed like "every Dell rat in the county" came to see the renovations made to the former teen hangout on Starcross Road in Spring Garden Township.

About 200 people came during the two-day event to see the changes made to the 4,000-square-foot home and 3-acre lot, which is now on the market for $399,000. Among the visitors was Margaret Elizabeth Brown Schneider, whose father built the house in 1913, shortly after she was born. Schneider will turn 100 on Wednesday and is considered the "oldest living Dell rat."

Walking past the new, stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen Sunday, Schneider's daughter, Kathy Clunk, whispered in her ear.

"Could you imagine if your father could see this?" she said.

Schneider had mixed emotions coming back to the house Sunday.

"It's a little sad," she said. "It's not the same."

Here are memories shared by some of Sunday's visitors at the open house:

1910s and 1920s

Schneider, one of 10 children, used to play in the woods near the brick house. Her father, George A. Brown, raised and kenneled dogs on the property and also sold REO and Cadillac cars out of the old barn, Clunk said.

However, when George Street took away the traffic that used to fill the old Baltimore Pike, the business failed, and the family went bankrupt, Clunk said. When Schneider was 12, the family moved from the property.


Paul Wolfgang remembers the quiet, relaxing atmosphere of the Shady Dell in the late 1940s, when he used to come out and play pinochle late at night with John Ettline, who ran the Dell with his wife, Helen.

"They had Christmas lights up around the patio, and we'd have a hamburger and a soda," said Wolfgang, who lives in Spring Garden Township.

The Ettlines started a home-based restaurant and bakery out of the home in 1945.

"It was just very peaceful here," Wolfgang said Sunday. "Very quiet."


Karl and Joyce Rosengrant, of Spring Garden Township, have been married since 1961 and remember coming to the Shady Dell in the 1950s -- but not together.

"I'd come with the girls, so when he wanted me to go home with him, they'd say, 'No, she came with us!'" Joyce said.

Joyce said she remembers spending many Friday nights dancing the night away on the outdoor stone patio in the company of her friends.

Karl has some different memories.

"This is where we'd come to pick up girls," he said, laughing.


But you didn't have to be a couple to have a good time, said Dorothy Schwartz of Springettsbury Township, who hung out at the Shady Dell in the mid-1960s.

"You didn't have to have a date, it was just fun," she said. "It was just a big party."

Schwartz and her friend Betty Hoffman, of Harrisburg, remember when they had to pay 25 cents to get in and dance in the old barn.

They said the

Ettlines were like their "surrogate parents."

"They were our second mother and father," Hoffman said.


Things had quieted down from the Shady Dell's heyday, when Judy Shorts of West York started hanging out at the Dell in 1975.

"There weren't nearly as many people, but we still had fun," she said.

Shorts was a second generation "Dell rat" -- her father had frequented the hangout in the 1950s, she said.

The 1970s was when teens started signing their names to the barn walls during dances, Shorts said.

"But I can't remember if my name's on the wall," she said.

About the Shady Dell

John and Helen Ettline started a home-based restaurant and bakery there in 1945, and it evolved into a teen hangout with indoor and outdoor dance floors, a jukebox and a soda fountain. Generations of teens danced, snacked on subs, flirted and fell in love at the Dell.

John closed it in October 1991. He died in 1993 at age 86. Helen had passed away in 1984.

An auction was held at the Dell around the time of John's death. It included items such as furniture, restaurant fixtures, Victorian pieces, a 1930s dining room set and a phonograph. Afterward, the house changed owners several times.

Tom and Bob Deroche bought the Dell at an estate sale about six years ago with plans to raze the structure and build condos. Then, the housing market dropped, so they decided to renovate the Dell.

Source: York Daily Record/Sunday News archives

Also of interest

--- Mike Argento: Memories of growing up at Shady Dell

--- Read Shady Dell memories at

--- Find more, including renovation photos, at and on Facebook.

---The renovated Shady Dell still The Dell.


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