I realize from the comments on my recent post about aluminum awnings that it’s time for my semiannual disclaimer about what I consider “Only in York County” or a “Yorkism.”
Admittedly, “Only” in York County is somewhat of a misnomer. What I mean, when I describe something that way, or as a Yorkism, is that it’s something that seems to pop up here a lot. Maybe more than you’d expect, or more than it would in some other places. It’s a global world… few things are truly “only” here now; I mean, we can even get most of our favorite local snacks sent by mail-order!
So, yes, not having said that for a while, I deserve some of the comments I got regarding the aluminum awnings.
Reader Barry Ness sent me this photo of some of the not-only-in-York-County-but-certainly-prevalent aforementioned awnings. Say all that 10 times fast.
Jo writes, “Definitely not unique to York or even Pennsylvania. These awnings can be seen in older neighborhoods all over the east coast and the mid-west, if not the entire country.” Agreed, yes!
And even my father-in-law, John, pointed it out. He writes, “They are not unique to York. Our RI home is aluminum sided with aluminum awnings over both front and side doors. The York Ottos (that’s Hubby, daughter Sarah and I!) have passed under these awnings.” Yep, point taken!
Regarding the manufacturing of these locally, Terry D. writes, “Many Yorkers may recall when Mott Awning was next to Rohall Pontiac on 300 block West Market Street, today the site of Circa Antiques. Mr. Mott was indeed a craftsman in his own right. And Weidner’s windows and awnings was at 500 block S. Queen Street and a purveyor of aluminum awnings.”
Bill Schmeer combined this with another love… York County radio history! He writes, “Early in my first radio job, back in the early ’50s, before tape recorders were used to record commercials, we read them live on the air. One of the spots was for these aluminum awnings and it contained this phrase several times, ‘extruded, architectural, aluminum awnings.’ We were always glad when we got though that one.”
I received a really cool e-mail not that long ago, too. Ronald L. Klimes, M.D., writes, “Your story about Aluminum Awnings caught my eye. The Eddie Herr house was a fixture on East Market Street for many years. It stood across from what became The York County Shopping Center and was next to The Lincoln Woods Inn (now Fat Daddy’s). It was originally built in 1939 as a country retreat by Eddie Herr (an insurance broker in York), and later used as a beer distributorship. In 1963 the property was sold to the Holiday Inn and the house was moved to it’s current location, on the corner of Eastern Blvd. and Edgewood Rd, so that the Holiday Inn could be built. I purchased the house on Eastern Blvd. in 1965 to use as an office for my medical practice. It had two round windows that faced Eastern Blvd. They each had aluminum awnings that looked like they had been out in the weather for a long time. My guess is that they were installed in the 1940′s or early 1950′s. I used the building for 32 years and never had a moment of trouble with them. I sold the property to a dentist, Dr. Jeff Goodis in 1998. He has done extensive remodeling to it since (You can tell it by it’s bright blue roof). But, the two round windows with the aluminum awnings, painted red and white, are still there. Drive by and take a look some time.”
He also sent me the photo seen below; as soon as I opened it, I knew exactly the building he meant! Thanks, Dr. Klimes!
And Joe Brillhart provides a good deal of history on the whole tradition, which was what originally intrigued me. He writes, “The first generation awnings were high quality canvas, and the center of the canvas awning universe was Linden, Madison and Pennsylvania Avenues. People had porch awnings because it made porches much more habitable from April though October when they were frequently occupied daily by the denizens, especially kids, of the neighborhood. I recall many evenings on the porch with my pre teen buddies in the late ’40′s,early ’50′s, contesting to see who could first identify and shout out by model and year, every car venturing down Madison Avenue. I also recall one of those years when York had a starling infestation so bad that homeowners (dads!) had a city sanctioned hour each evening to shotgun the bejabbers out of the streetside treetops, much to the glee of the porch grandstanding kids (“your dad shot how many last night?”).Just as putting up the awnings was a rite of spring, taking them down for stowing in the basement on a cool November Saturday was an official somber recognition that winter weather was close behind. But awnings and the porch sitting culture that went with it began to fadein the 50′s with the advent of TV. When my parents moved to a retirement home in the late 80′s, they were among the few and the last on Madison Avenue that still had awnings or, more importantly, were still porch sitters.Thank you for your recent column which elicited these memories.”
Finally, Barry N., who got us started on awnings (for which I am definitely grateful!) seems to have borne the brunt of some of this discussion. He writes, “Not unique to York but certainly a vanishing house improvement. My ‘Thanx’ to Joan… my 2 cans & string phone have been ringing constantly!!!” Er, oops! I hope everyone was nice to Barry!