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The Trip Down Market Street in the 50's

Dick Stender

A trip down Market Street in the 50’s

This tour of Camp Hill, has been perked through the memories of about 60 years. Like coffee, they may not be as strong as you, the reader would prefer. 

There will be omissions and probably some mistakes that will be noticed by the collective eyes, who read and remember.

The tour rambles a bit, as do I, being easily distracted by what, at that time, was important to me. Regretfully, I have neither the memory nor the ambition to offer something about everyone. For whatever shortcomings you may find, I apologize and accept critiques from you who may have a vivid memory of a place or person I have lost on the dusty shelves of an old brain. Nostalgia is often imperfect, but nonetheless, wonderful.


Dick Stender, March 2006
CHHS Class of 1955

Camp Hill Memories
“Our Town”


In other chapters of this nostalgic journey, I have talked about the people and events that played such a big pan in our “fifties” experience in the wonderful borough of Camp Hill. While taxing what is left of my aging and jellied brain, I would like to take you on a trip back to those days, so join me in revisiting many of the places that are all but lost in this current, crazy world. I am very much aware of my age and as I tell my sons and grandkids, I have a rearview mirror that is full of what was, albeit foggy at times, while the road ahead is shortened in terms of time and possibilities.

Let’s start at the beginning of Camp Hill — 15’ Street, where we adjoined the borough of Lemoyne, an earstwhile sports rival. Here, behind the Gessner Chrysler dealership, was Brandts Beer Distributor. Now you have to remember that there were no bars, no places that served any kind of alcohol, in the entire town. This was the era of the Pennsylvania Blue Laws, but in Camp Hill, it may as well have been prohibition. But- we had Brandts.

ft there a young man who lived in Camp Hill during that time that didn’t try, through some ploy or ruse, to buy beer from Brandts. The knarled old man that ran the place had heard them all and foiled every attempt to fool him. Even Jim “Ape” Miller could not do it. Jim, God rest his soul, got into puberty about the age of six. He looked much older than the rest of us and could fool the guys in Silver Springs or Lemoyne, but never Mr Brandt. We ranged far and wide inpursuit of beer, but gave Brandt a wide berth. Fifteenth Street was also the home of Zoe Ann Mood and I think the Arms family. I always felt sorry for those kids who had to walk to school, particularly in the winter. I can tell you that as girlfriends, residents of this street were up against it. I walked Zoe Ann home from a dance, in seventh grade, in November and did not thaw till the following June!

Moving up Market Street to South 18th.Street, we are at the next memorable place¬, Otty’s Mobil Station. My friend Steve spent much of his youth as Otty’s employee. There was another guy named Jerry Hummelbaugh, who also worked there. Nearly every one of the people I knew, bought their gas from Otty. Steve and Jerry, with their neat and perpetually clean cars, attracted Bruce Larson and the “car set” to the station, where they sat around and talked, using terms like Edelbrock, Iskenderian and Holly. Later on, Steve bought the station and began his capitalistic ways.

Next door to Otty’s place, was Grimms Electronics. I never did understand what they made or operated, but they were there forever. Just across from 19th. Street, there was an old and quite large house that was going to ruin. In about our sixth grade, Charlie Myers bought it and turned it into a funeral home, Camp Hill’s first and only such establishment. It is still there and remains in the Myers family to this day-.. Charlie was a very nice man and for years, had a monopolistic hold on Camp Hill’s funeral business. On the other hand, I have never met a mortician who was not exceedingly nice! Charlie supported the school, the athletic programs and could always be counted on to buy a full-page ad in the yearbook.

About a block north on 19th Street, stood the venerable Lincoln Elementary School. In my part of town, we attended Schaeffer, mentioned many times in this collection. That was the extent of elementary schools in Camp Hill. We had neither middle schools nor even a stand-alone junior high. Lincoln School was an unknown to most of us at Schaeffer. On those rare occasions, when all elementary students trekked, in long columns, down to the high school auditorium, the Lincoln kids sat on one side of the room and we on the other. Usually it was for some show, the annual Dental Honor Roll hoopla or to hear Mr. Gamber taunt us with bicycles and gifts if we sold his Curtis Publishing magazines. I’m straying from the tour, but as these thoughts come about, l am compelled to share them.

Conveniently next to Myers Funeral Home, was the Trinity Lutheran Church. There hails a pastor,, who was drop-dead, movie star handsome. Reverend Rhineberger was his name and he became a frequent speaker at school events and always attended the football and basketball games. I remember him best as a staunch supporter of Troop 51 of the Boy Scouts, a very successful and active organization. They used to collect scrap newspaper and it was not unusual to see Reverend Rhineberger helping to cram bundles of paper in that old troop bus.

About two blocks further and it was Polk’s Drug Store. A Mr. Tom Polk, who had some strange mannerisms when he greeted customers, owned it. He would give you a big toothy grin and then start to move his hands; as though he was washing them He was not a pharmacist and sold only patent medicines and sundaes. Ahh! Those sundaes were to die for - at least in my juvenile mind. On Sundays, we would go to the Camp Hill Methodist Church and my grandfather would give us each a quarter for the offering collection. I can tell you that there were many Sundays that old Tom Polk got most of that money, when I would sneak out of Sunday School for one of his butterscotch delicacies. Polks never achieved the special status that we kids reserved for Doc Fickel, but he managed to stay in business for most of my years in Camp Hill.

That old Methodist Church was where I and many of my closest chums went for our spiritual initiation. We had a pastor, named Shank — a great bear of a man, who really involved himself in the high school, even to the point of coaching the football team for a year or two. His vigor and warmth was an early influence in me wanting to enter the clergy. In fact, I was serious enough about to mention it to a couple of friends and thus I became, “Rev” for much of my time in high school. A preacher named Ray, who came later, was the undoing of my aspirations for the clergy.
The next block was a real mix of places, starting with Hiler’s on- the corner. He sold-fountain treats made from Rakestraws Ice Cream- a local favorite. They also had the very best selection in penny candy that a kid ever saw. Moving down the block and there was Traub’s Market. It was an old-fashioned grocery store that Mr. and Mrs. Traub operated in the face of moderate competition from other small stores. Jammed into that little building was a meat counter, canned goods and produce that were often displayed on the porch. Mr. Traub, a pencil perpetually behind his ear, did everything — cut meat, rang up customers, and helped his wife stock shelves. It is likely that Traub’s Market and the Traubs themselves had not changed much since the day they opened the place. They knew every customer by name and like many other establishments, offered charge accounts to regular customers. When the Food Fair opened in town, Traub’s went the way of too many other friendly local establishments - displaced by progress.

Just down the block, Sprenkel’s Appliances had a small store, sharing the property with Bill Coombs Barber Shop. Bill is the guy I describe in the “Flatop” story. Now just across the street, in my elementary school years, the Hill Theater was built and opened. I will never forget that child admission price of fourteen cents! Adult tickets were expensive at twenty-five cents.. A man named Blosser was the manager and it was he who gave our classmate, Hank Kramer a job as usher and ticket taker. Hank held that job all through high school. That theater was privy to some heavy petting and let’s face it — until we could drive, there weren’t many dark place to take a girl! The Hill is now gone, yet another place in my life, doomed by SuperMetroPlex theaters.

Right next door to the theater was the big, old brick house of the Lazarus family. They had two kids that I remember — Stokes, in the class of 1951 and Karonetta¬, that’s right- that was her name. Why I remember it is probably because it was where I was, sitting on their little front lawn with some friends, when I learned of Hardy’s father dying. Someone said that Hardy had pointed at a falling star, said to be a bad omen, just days before his dad died. The Lazarus home gave way to a Rea and Derrick Drug Store somewhere in 1951-52.

Just across the street, was a large building that held the post office, a dentist named Enterline, some apartments and the gift shop. I am told that the name of the older lady that owned it was Snyder. When we kids wanted to buy a gift for Mom, it was generally where we went. During my card-collecting phase of childhood, it was where I stumbled on a double deck of playing cards with “Blueboy” on one deck and “Pinky” on the other. I parlayed that couple of bucks into a shoebox full of coveted cards that I shrewdly traded with friends in the neighborhood. Sounds silly, but in watching the Antiques Road Show, I think I may have had a bonanza if I had just kept that shoebox. As a hobby, Card Collecting is yet another thing that today’s kids would never understand.

Right next door was a very large, white frame building that had been converted into a series of town houses, or row houses, as we knew them back then. Originally built back in the 1870’s, as an orphans’ home for Civil War soldiers, it was historic and mentioned in the meager tourist information for Camp Hill. Several of my friends lived there at one time or another, among them being Patty Becker, who set maturation records in seventh and eighth grade.

Now comes the heart of town- at least it was for us kids, because it was Fickel’s Drug Store, covered in an earlier chapter of this collection. Right next door was a Five and Ten Cent Store; yet another term that is hard to explain to my grandkids. Not to depart from this tour, but that genre of stores was huge in our youth. Names like Woolworth, Murphy’s, Grants, Kresge and many others were seen on store signs, always followed by “Five and Ten Cent Store.” It is a sign of the economic times that bargains of that sort are now found in places called “Dollar Stores,” a thousand percent cost increase and an inestimable deficit in fond memories. Upstairs, there was the School of Dance, run by Mrs. Weigle, mentioned in other chapters, namely concerning Barbie Holler and the backbend! The Shoeman family also had an apartment up there. They had three kids in the high school but I only remember Ben and Barbara, one of Doc Shopes twirlers.

Ernie something or other, the name escapes me, had the Camp Hill Hardware Store, just across the street from Fickel’s. The building also housed the American Store, operated by the Miller family. The hardware was one of those old fashioned, dark and crowded emporiums of tools, hinges, nails, doorknobs and everything else a person might need for fixing or repairing. Ernie or one of his erstwhile helpers would guide customers through the maze, finding exactly what was needed in some bin, box or drawer. Compare that to today’s home improvement centers, where everything is displayed in those impossible to open, plastic packages, and the help knows nothing about hardware.

Mr. Miller, who with his hardworking wife, ran the American Store, was a big man, who greeted every customer with a smile. They were the parents of my friend Jim, mentioned above, the one whose hirsute qualities earned him that name, “Ape.” For as long as he lived, my grandfather bought all of our groceries from Mr. Miller. When, as a kid, I asked him why we did not shop at Food Fair, he said, “Because Art Miller knows my name and he is a friend!” In a nutshell, that was the way Camp Hill did business. People knew their friends and neighbors and that bond was important.

There was another grocer just down Market Street, across from the borough hall, but I can’t think of the name. Covers, pronounced like clovers, rings a bell, but I’m not sure. They, like Traub’s and Miller’s, were a neighborhood store with a distinct and loyal following.

Borough Hall! That building housed the borough offices, the fire and police department and the road maintenance facilities. We had some sort of borough official in charge, not quite a mayor and more folksy than an alderman, There was a borough council of some sort, which without controversy, governed the five thousand souls of the populace. The fire department was strictly a volunteer organization and thanks to those who responded to the old siren, managed to conquer the occasional blaze in someone’s vacant lot. House fires were rare. I talked about Pop Gardner and the police force in the Park Romp chapter, but it bears repeating that Pop , Officer Schooley, Ross and Hoag, struck fear in the local criminals, who must have ventured to Enola and New Cumberland to break laws.

Just next door, practiced the esteemed Dr. Whitman, a dentist who must have studied with Doc Holliday. My family never used him, partly based on stories of his impatience with anyone having a low pain tolerance. He had a flourishing practice, probably because he was one of only three dentists in town, Drs. Enterline and Brady being the other two.

The Masonic Hall, a magnificent edifice of grey granite, stands next to Dr. Whitman’s office. It was always mysterious to me. I never saw much activity there and since no one in my family was a Mason, nor was I in the Demolay, the junior Masons, it was one building in Camp Hill I never entered. I do recall my grandfather talking about the Masons and then one day, after talking to some bricklayers, and learning they were called masons, I encountered a neighbor, wearing a fez, who told me that he was a Mason. I suffered some stern looks when I asked him, “Where do you lay bricks?” Anyway, the Masonic building was and still is impressive and dignified.

Moving along Market Street, at the corner of 23d Street, was the original home of the Camp Hill National Bank. Like the others described above, it was small, local and friendly. That building as I recall from my last visit, is now the office of some politico from D.C. The bank was swallowed up by a bigger fish, which have since been passed up the corporate food chain and is now part of a multi-multi-multi-regional banking system. That’s progress for you!

While here at 23d Street, it is worth mentioning that the town’s only cemetery is a couple of blocks up, beside the Presbyterian Church. It was the site of our Memorial Day programs and also a great place to PARK! Yeah, that is right-PARK or PARKING, done at night and with a girl. Most girls were less than amorous amid tombstones, but it was really dark, quiet and secluded, which is half the equation for PARKING success. The chain barrier was never a problem, given the incentive of the potential rewards! I should mention that some of the kids on flit Street used to play hide-and-seek in the cemetery, but PARKING there is my most vivid recollection.

You know, I never found out why there used to be a WWII fighter plane fuselage behind the Presbyterian Church. But there was and I played for many hours in that cockpit, bombing Japanese ships and what ever targets my imagination created. Maybe it was a toy for the pastor’s son. In my old age, I describe it as the “Pre¬Destination Pursuit Plane, trying to be irrevently humorous. The church sponsored Boy Scout Troop 52, of which I was a member. I developed great respect for Ted Deeter, our leader and also for the corps of older scouts. Dan Daniels, Wally Lester, John Moser, Rennie Heidelbaugh and Bob Staz were, in the vernacular of the day, “swell” guys, who I suspect went on to great successes.

Returning to Market Street, we pass Doc Lawton’s place and come to the home and office of Dr. Curry. The house, purportedly built as a colonial toll station, was constructed of grey limestone and was one of two or three legendary places where George Washington ate or slept or whatever, during his fabled career. Note that I said frabled! I think those stories were hatched by some real estate guru, who just knew that it would add twenty percent to the value.

Just past Dr. Curry’s place, is the original Camp Hill Park. Actually nothing more than a green space between 24 and25th. Streets, it has a small stream that flows through. Spanning this little brook, was a small footbridge, which we knew and I fondly recall as, “The Little Green Bridge.” It was a haul from my house to the bridge, but as a kid, I made the trip frequently. It was usually with my friend Max and often with a lunch for a sort of picnic outing. We would take off our shoes and collect crayfish, putting them in a can and taking them home. Of course they would die in a matter of hours. I remember a day when the hunting was particularly good and I stashed my can in the garage, only to forget it when we left for a weekend away. It was summer and hot and that makes for some strange chemistry in a can of dead crayfish! When we returned, my grandfather went to the garage for something or other and alerted me to possible trouble by an outburst of muted profanity. I say muted, because he could not really bellow while holding his nose as he exited the garage. He made me bury the mass of shelly, smelly critters in the rose garden and then he burned the can! Needless to say, I never brought any more of the Little Green Bridge wildlife home again. When my sister and I talk about our youth, we often discuss those idyllic days by the bridge.

At the Market Street end of the park, was the Camp Hill Honor Roll, with names of those who died in the service of our country. I never really paid much attention to
it. But now, after a thirty-year career as a soldier and having suffered much derision for my Vietnam service, I guess I have to say I am retrospectively proud of Camp Hill for remembering the fallen.
if,

If we go down S.24 Street, on the right is a sprawling house that was Mrs. Brown’s Kindergartn. She and a lady, named McCourt, operated similar places that were half day-care and half kindergarten. I mention them only because in today’s child safety mania, it would be national news if either of those ladies were operating as
At 29â Street, one could look north and see Schaeffer School, subject of many of my memories. And then you were at the Esso. As a young boy, I remember being able to see my house on Lincoln Street, from Three Gables. There was nothing between our back yard and the by-pass except the big farmhouse of the Hoover family. Then came the “Circle Place” development and gone were the fields and the view.

32nd. Street, called the by-pass, was always busy with traffic. Aunt Mary’s house was there, and also the home of Mr. Attendance, Nead Miller. The Gambers lived up a bit. Mr. Gamber is often mentioned in these stories because of his ability to put “The Saturday Evening Post” in your mailbox, or put you on a guilt trip for not supporting the high school!

Further out Market, was the Carvel Stand and The Blue Pig. Boy! Did we think that we had made the big time when we finally got our own frozen custard stand. It became another of Dr. Fritchie’s allies, sending droves of Camp Hill teens for acne treatment. The Blue Pig, a barbecue place, was at one time a local “place” for teens, but was fading fast when we came along.

Just across the road, was the Polo Field and part of Gross’s celery farm. There were regular polo games played there and I made a few bucks on weekends, walking horses between chukkers. That is polo talk for a period of play. Max Hempt, the Quarry King, was the sponsor and central figure in th polo crowd. The farm, the polo field and everything else, back to the creek, is now subdivision.

I neglected to mention that The Good Shepherd Catholic Church was built on a chunk of the farm, giving a hometown place to worship for the relatively few Catholics in Camp Hill. The Regan girls and Peg Ferguson sometimes mystified us with talk of “confession, rosaries and fish on Fridays.” For us, it didn’t make a difference who worshipped where. We were just a bunch of kids, enjoying each other on our ride through life. Sadly, today, too many folks seem to think all that matters.

That is my hometown. We also had Country Club Hills and Place, Fiala’s Farm and Knob Hill. We are famed as the home of the White Hill Industrial School, a prison, originally built for juvenile offenders.(It’s not in the borough!) You can’t drink in a bar in Camp Hill and there are a couple of very good places to eat. But it remains an independent little community, with residents who have pride in not being just a place in a big township. As told in the football story, Camp Hill has a chip on its shoulder, carried with a smile and a minimum of pomposity. Many outsiders are of the opinion that we think too highly of our town. You know, they’re right! It was a better place to live - and still is!

Tour Guide —Dick Stender
CHHS Class of 1955

 

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