Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lititz Was Cool Even in 1959

This originally ran in the Lititz Record-Express in 2005.  It has been updated and where known, [the current, 2013 occupants of buildings or businesses are shown in brackets]

It’s the summer of 1959. Take a walk with me from my home at 111 E. Lincoln Ave., west toward Broad Street and the Lincoln Avenue Garage [Lincoln Avenue Garage].  The International trucks parked on either side of the ramp leading up into the garage are for sale and in a few years they would be Scouts, the first vehicle to compete with the storied Jeep. Further down the avenue at the corner with Broad Street we find Bart Sharp, just returning from a birdwatching trip to White Oak, and his wife opening the photo shop [For Lease] for the day.

Further west on Lincoln Avenue would take us past one of the five shoe companies [Outback Toys] then operating in town (I never could remember if it was Badorf,  B-G,  Lititz,  Alsam or A. J. Beford Shoe Company), and Travis Mills [Cargill (Wilbur)] before getting to the brand new Lambert-Hudnut [Johnson & Johnson] Pharmaceutical plant. But we are not going that way today.

Turning left we pass the American Legion [American Legion] and their brand new “air conditioned bar” and at Front Street we encounter Zartman’s Dry Goods and Grocery Store [Shear Sensations]. They had a novelty selection that rivaled  Gearhardt’s 5 cent to $1 store [Hess Clothing] further south on Broad at Juniper Alley, or the Jos. Harris Variety store [Cherry Acres] on East Main Street. Behind Zartman’s, in the alley, is Flory Distributing [Apartments] where you can pick up your “Beer, Ale, Porter, Soft Drinks” by the case.

Directly across Broad Street are the Lititz Lanes [GONE} and all eight lanes now, in 1959, have new A.M.F. automatic pin spotters. The bowling alleys sit back off Broad Street and just to the south of the Warwick House [Toy Soldier], which has been there as long as the town of Warwick has been part of Lititz. South of the Lititz Lanes is another one of the shoe factories [Subway].

The pug-nosed delivery truck for Cream Top Dairy drives by just having finished morning deliveries to its home clients in Lititz. Penn Dairies and Queen Dairy were the other Lancaster dairies that delivered locally. Graybill’s Dairy in Halfville and Spruce Villa Dairy on Brunnerville Road at Newport Road rounded out the options for home delivery of milk and other dairy products. At the time most homes also had bread delivered by Manbeck’s, Holsum, Wright’s or Harting’s bakery.

Crossing Front Street and continuing south we stop and peer into the window of Vernon Ranck’s meat market [Savory Gourmet]. The meat was fresh since Vernon butchered in the building behind the shop a couple of times a week. But then so did the other butchers in the area:  Lutz at the Farmer’s Market on Main Street; Emerson Knight in Penryn; Markley’s in Lexington; and Greenawalt & Keck at Stauffer’s on Kissel Hill.

Adjacent to Ranck’s is Leaman’s Grocery Store [Uncle Funky's], one of perhaps a dozen neighborhood groceries in town. Acme Market [Tiger's Eye], next to the LITITZ Theater [Teddy Bear Imporium] on Main Street is now closed but Hiestand’s [ELA Group] has just opened a gigantic super market on the south end of town at the foot of Kissel Hill (eventually selling out to Weis [Weis] who then built an even bigger store across the street).

After picking up a bologna sample from Vernon we continue south toward the creek where we pause to take in the “air pollution” from the Wilbur Chocolate [Wilbur Division of Cargill International] factory. They had just recently dropped the Suchard from their name.

Now we will cross the Reading Railroad [Norfolk Southern] tracks and the creek and pause for a soft drink at Weaver’s Restaurant [GONE}.

Finding a place to eat in Lititz is not a great challenge in 1959. Irvin’s Restaurant [Sturgis Haus] is just next to the LITITZ Theater on Main Street in the Sturgis Hotel. The Warwick House and the General Sutter [General Sutter] both offer lunch and dinner. Die Brickerville Scheier is one of our favorite restaurants along US Route 322 in Brickerville and there was the new Brickerville Snackette directly across the road. For fast food there is Twin Kiss (better known as the TK) [GONE] on the north edge of town and the Dairy Queen [Lititz Service Center] near the southern border of the borough. The DQ didn’t last long and was soon replaced by a gas station.

You can also get a meal at Al Weber’s White Swan Hotel [White Swan] in Rothsville as well as the Brunnerville Hotel [Brunnerville Hotel]. Another favorite eatery is Gert’s Place [Private Residence] in Rothsville.

Weaver’s will eventually become famous as Bingeman’s Restaurant, another favorite haunt for the mysterious writer of “Mid the Turmoil” in the Lititz Record-Express. In 1959 Les and Mary Bingeman are still honing their skills as restaurateurs at the Penn Dairies Restaurant in Neffsville—known by most as “the purple wall.”

On the wall inside Weaver’s is a clock advertising Rosey’s Ice Cream. The treats were made in a garage behind the Front Street home (near Oak Street) of the Rosenberg family. They had been selling ice cream treats street-by-street from a big ice chest mounted on the back of a yellow Jeep. Earlier it had been a full sized truck with the sides cut out to serve the neighborhood denizens. This is the same Rosey who would get up early and park his truck near the square on North Broad Street each Saturday and sell Roseyburgers—one of the longest standing traditions in Lititz.

Next to Weaver’s cum Bingeman’s was an empty storefront that had recently housed the Western Auto Store and before that one of the two movie theaters in Lititz. The restaurant and empty store will eventually be torn down leaving the side of the Park View Hotel exposed.

Floyd Hagy moved the Western Auto into a new brick building [Days Gone By] on Main Street between Benner’s Pharmacy [Cafe' Chocolate] and Sturgis Alley, next to Doster’s Grocery Store [Matthew 25] which was across the street from the LITITZ Theater. Doster’s is unique in that it has doors that open automatically when you step on the rubber mat, freeing your hands to carry the bags of groceries. Downtown Lititz was a flourishing center of trade and innovation in 1959.

The Park View Hotel wins the all time award for appropriately named buildings in Lititz as sitting on the full front porch or balcony you had a perfect view of Lititz Springs Park. The view wasn’t really all that great until 1957 as the park entry was pretty well grown over with aging trees and vines and the two large columns that held the wrought-iron gates in place were cracked and crumbling. In 1956, the fellow who brought the Lambert-Hudnut pharmaceutical factory to Lititz would give the park board the money to completely rebuild the entry, adding the large pool, and spruce up most of the park, opening the Elmer Holmes Brobst era of Lititz history.  By 1959 the park is beautiful and inviting.

In 1959 we are looking into Lititz Springs Park and down a narrow lane next to the park. On the left is the Lititz Springs Pretzel Factory [GONE]. The smell of baking pretzels (the old-timers still call them bretzels) competes with the odor of coca beans roasting at the Wilbur Chocolate Company which is on the north side of the park.

Having been baked commercially in Lititz before anywhere else, the pretzel had become an established snack food by the end of the decade of the 1950s. Lititz was still a major manufacturer of pretzels with the original Sturgis Pretzel Bakery [Sturgis Pretzel Bakery] cranking out bags of pretzels on East Main Street across from Linden Hall. In these days the girls attending Linden Hall all had their “pretzel boxes” which they would take to the factory and get free or very inexpensive broken pretzels to keep as snacks in their rooms.

P. L. Kofroth, operating as “Old-Tyme, Hand-Made Lititz Pretzels” [GONE} had his bakery a block east of Sturgis’ on Main Street.

Major manufacturing and distribution of pretzels had shifted to Reading and in these days before the mechanical twisters have taken over, most pretzels were still twisted by hand. The story is told that it was one of the Sturgis brothers who moved to Reading and founded the industry there. The unique part is that this brother was left-handed and taught the people in Reading to twist pretzels left handed. People in the pretzel business can actually tell a left-handed pretzel from a right-handed pretzel. Machines would eventually make this little quirk disappear.

Next to the pretzel factory near the park is the warehouse building that the Spacht family has given to the community to serve as a “community center.” It sits at the end of North Spruce Street and directly up against the Lititz Springs Park. Inside is a ballroom, a soda fountain (that was seldom used) and meeting rooms for clubs and groups. “The Rec” is THE place to be on Saturday nights in the summer time if you are a teenager. This is the place that I took my first date, Yvonne Yeagley, for an evening of dancing and socializing.

The Rec and the pretzel factory will soon be torn town and the Rev. I. Walton Brobst Recreation Center will be built in their place. It would be the virtual end to the pretzel industry in Lititz and would change the nature of the Rec Center forever. The new building with it’s linoleum dance floor will never replace the wooden plank floor of the old rec and it would never be as inviting. Eventually, it too, will be replaced by a more modern facility and renamed Lititz Community Center.  Many locals took the letters LCC and started calling it the Lititz Country Club.  In 2013 it is the Lititz Rec and if affiliated with other similar operations in this part of the county.

Rock and Roll is in the main stream by 1959, Elvis is still king but he is serving in the Army leaving people like Bobby Darin and Paul Anka along with Bobby Rydell and the media concoction called Fabian to fill the void. We spent our allowances or earnings at Reedy’s Philco [Candy Ology or Glitz, I can't remember] across from the Post Office buying 45 rpm records and our week-ends going from community to community in search of dances and midnight drags and submarine races.

So now, lets walk south past Glassmyer's into the Lititz financial district.

Glassmyer's [Tomato Pie Cafe] in 1959 is a drug store and soda fountain, one of three in town at the time. I seldom went to Glassmyer’s, preferring instead McElroy’s [McElroy's], with it’s door directly on the corner of Main and Cedar Streets. The high backed, dark wooden booths and the long fountain with its round stools on pedestals is still my prototype of a soda fountain all the way into the next century. Some of my friends worked for Glenn McElroy as soda jerks dispensing, among other concoctions, my favorite, the cherry phosphate.

But it was the bank of green-headed Hamilton-Beach mixers that made the best milkshake in the universe.

The third soda fountain was at Benners Pharmacy [Cafe' Chocolat] in the first block of Main St. but it catered to an older crowd and I don’t remember even entering the place until much later to get a, then famous, nickel cup of coffee.

Going south across North Alley (that was before Alleys were banned from Lititz and they were all made into “Lanes.”) we come upon the imposing architecture of the Lititz Springs National  Bank.

Lititz Springs Bank [Citizen's Bank] was celebrating 50 years of service to the community having started in 1909 with $7,494 in deposits and total resources of $36,994. By May of 1959 deposits had grown to $7,215,182 with total resources in excess of eight million dollars. But none of it was mine.

My little savings account and the Christmas Club accounts that my grandmother set up for my sister and me were in the Farmers National Bank [Susquehanna Bank] next door on Broad Street. They were boasting the newest banking craze—branch offices. You could then deal with Farmers Bank in downtown Lititz or at their branch in the new Lancaster Shopping Center, just south of US 30 between the Lititz and Oregon Pikes.

Across Broad Street from the banks was a row of Victorian houses that may have made up the most classically beautiful block of homes in Lititz. They would soon be torn down in a melee that included a gas station, Lititz Springs Park and moving a street that I will get into at some other time.

And that brings us to “the square” which is actually a triangle. In 1959 it is much the same as it will be in 2005 [and 2013]. It was here in 1957 where the community gathered spontaneously to celebrate the victorious Warwick Union High School basketball squad—perhaps still the most successful in the history of the school. Coach Dean Miller and his assistant Leroy Troupe dismounted from the yellow school busses after winning the Lancaster County championship on March 1. They again addressed the crowd after defeating Manchester High School, York County on March 12 to advance to the District 3, Class “B” PIAA finals.

Having won the county championship the thinclads went on to defeat York County’s Manchester High School by a heart stopping score of 56 to 54. They had previously defeated the Biglerville and Camp Hill teams as county champs.

The Warriors (who started the season unofficially as “the Pretzels”) had amassed 1,518 points in the season, besting their opponents by 380 points. They grabbed 448 more rebounds than those they faced. But in the District 3, Class “B” PIAA finals they ran into the Palmyra Palms and were soundly trounced 61 to 37.

When the yellow school busses holding the dejected Warriors pulled up to the square the crowd was, if anything, larger than the ones previous that were celebrating victories.

Coaches Miller and Troupe introduced team captain Ed Harnley and the coaches brought every member of the team onto the trampled flower beds to raucous applause. One by one:  Ed Larkins, Dick Allebach, Glenn “Shorty” Martin, Ken Keener, Johnny Gibbel, Ron Roth, Nev Weit, Sam Nuss and Jere Long were treated to cheers.  Even managers Dan Sheffy and Gerry Kemper got their share.

The other sports didn’t fare as well as the basketballers but the new Warwick Union School District showed up in baseball, football, field hockey, boys (called varsity) and girls tennis as well as a winning girls’ basketball team.

Coach Joanne Smith and her managers Alice Gundrum and Theresa Cuccio supported a 7-3 winning season. The seniors were Captain Sue Myers, Mary Alice Diehm, Marilyn Zartman, Susie Beck, Sally Sue Templeton, Pat Binkley and my grandparents’ neighbor on Cedar St., Lucy Hall.

But now it is time to cross the other leg of Main Street, pass the General Sutter Hotel [General Sutter Hotel] and pop in on the firemen, enjoying a chat and a cigar sitting next to the fire trucks with tires, in 1959, nearly as tall as I.

Hess Cleaners [Hess Clothing and Cleaners], “the only dry cleaner in Lititz,” was next to the fire house [Lititz Borough and Police Department] and Gearhart’s Self-Service 5cent to $1 Store [Hess Clothing and Cleaners] was next to Juniper Alley (not then “Lane”).

The Gearhart family were great people but I never made friends with them because their store was the scene of my own personal crime spree. Some years earlier I was putting up my train set just before Christmas and the Plasticville log cabin was situated behind a plastic log fence that was one section shy of being complete. Soon thereafter I was in Gearhart’s, saw a section of fence in a 5 cent bin. I put it in my pocket and walked out the door. It still bothers me, some six decades later and I often wonder what would have happened to me had I been found out.

Most likely I would have been reported to my parents and punishment would have been swift and sure. Today kids get locked up for offences that, in my day, were parental problems. I wonder if we are better off?

Sitting at the fire house on South Broad Street in 1959 on folding wooden slat chairs, the cigar smoke is pretty thick.

The fire house was still the social hub of the community with it’s Springtime Strawberry Festival and the Chicken Corn Soup Festival in the Fall. Santa handed each child in Lititz an orange from Stauffers ON Kissel Hill and a box of Wilbur-Suchard chocolates from the decorated arch door to the fire house kitchen.

Even in those days the battle raged over the Chicken Corn Soup—to add the skin or not add the skin to the recipe. Some years it even went so far that the pro-skin crowd would grind up the skin and dump it into the mix when no one was watching. My grandfather was proud to have been the official Lititz Fire Company soup dipper for more than 50 years until they came to an end soon after the new firehouse (which was dedicated to him and Paul Diehm) was constructed.

I remember attending my first Lititz Sportsmen’s Club “Smoker” at the fire house. It was one of the all male events of the day, was bawdy and raucous and, indeed, culminated with everyone (except me and the few other teenagers in attendance) lighting up and puffing on a Phillies Cheroot.

The second floor of the fire house contained a social room for smoking, chewing, playing cards and shooting pool. Behind it was the Borough Office—one room that the Council used for their meetings.  The basement was the police department and the “lock up.” One of the town’s Boy Scout troops met there (the other two, as I recall, met in the house next to the Lutheran Church at Broad and Orange Streets, and in the Brothers House on the Moravian Church campus).

Perhaps the greatest mystery that Lititz ever held was viewable to me as I sat on that folding chair in 1959 in the front of the fire house and looked across the street. The great mystery was a house that was owned by a club. My grandfather belonged to the club and he would go there regularly to play Hasenpfeffer or Euchre. I never went inside it and no one ever talked about it. The Lititz Record Express never wrote about it (that I could recall) and I don’t remember ever seeing a sign.

The Lititz Young Men’s Business League (“The League”) is as much a mystery today as it was then.  But now, there is hope for future disclosure—our esteemed editor, Steven Seeber, it is reported, has been inducted into membership. I wonder, did he get a membership card?  [At the age of 68 this year I, too, became a member of the League].