Ask Joan: End of the school year, Valley View Park edition

Our daughter, Sarah, has officially finished what would be her sixth-grade year if she were still in public school! (We don’t exactly keep to a particular “grade level” in our style of homeschooling.)

Tonight, she meets with a homeschooling evaluator, who will provide a report to our school district confirming that Sarah is making good progress; we also are required by state law to turn in a brief portfolio of work samples to the district.

We’re excited to get started on “next year” after a short break… but in the meantime, Sarah’s the envy of her public-school friends, who have a couple of weeks left!

Today’s Ask Joan is a special follow-up edition on Valley View Park in the Hellam area, complete with a special surprise!

Tom Gracey kicks off the memories. He writes, “You were talking about ‘Valley View Park’ in Hellam. I remember going there with our parents as kids. I remember Minnie Pearl who always had the price tags on her hat. Then there was ‘Grandpa Jones’ with his banjo. There was some of the top names in ‘country’ and ‘bluegrass’ that performed there on Sunday afternoons. We thought they were Amish but later in life realized they were probably Mennonites that would attend these performances. The large strawberry fields right beside the park where my brother and I would pick and eat the strawberries. While enjoying some great music. Thanks for bringing back some great memories of our family outings to ‘Valley View Park.'”

Thank you, Tom, for sharing!

Joan L. Wise says, “I have very fond memories of Valley View. When I was a mere teenager my grandfather was a part of security there and I would go with him every Sunday. Sometimes I could not go at the same time that he left so I would walk from East Prospect to the park. I really don’t know how far that is but it was quite a distance but nothing would keep me away from seeing all the attractions there, and there were many. Today I am an 80 year old lady who looks back on those wonderful days and feel a little sorry that today there is no way that a young girl would be able to walk for that distance and be safe. Thank you for the memory. It has been a long time since I have reminisced about my wonderful experience there. Big names from Hollywood who I would not have been able to see anywhere else. But also the locals – The 101 Ranch Boys and Shorty Fincher and his wife Sally and the band.”

And longtime commenter Audrey Lerew writes, “Everything Wayne wrote you is exactly right. I worked there as a teenager. There were games and food. Sally and Shorty Fincher were great caring people. They sure knew the stars. They used to live in North York. First two years I worked at a stand where they had the coke bottles in the wooden crates and you threw wooden rings to ring the bottles. Next two years I worked at the french fry stand. There was also a kitchen building. I remember one time Lash LaRue came. He was a western movie star. He drove in a big white Cadillac. Painted on his fender was his name painted as a Lash. I remember Fuzzy St Jones one time. He was hysterical. I recall him jumping over the railing in the kitchen building to get ahead of the people in line. He was so funny! It was a very nice clean family place to go to.”

Here’s my “big surprise.” I have what I believe is a previously unpublished photo taken at Valley View Park, of Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs performing.

This photo was taken by Jim Goodling. Many of you might remember Jim, who was a longtime commenter. He passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer, and his wife, Mary, was kind enough to share with me some photos Jim had taken in and around York. You’ll see more of Jim’s great pictures later this week, but I just had to include this one in today’s post.

Meanwhile, more memories arrived in the mail about Valley View as well. George M. Trout Sr., writes, “I notice you seem to have much mail or phone calls concerning Valley View Park. Not surprising for the time period. No TV, no seasonal entertainment except Hershey Park. The York Fair was a one week affair, and then the grounds were locked up the rest of the year. The ‘Valley,’ as it was called, was filled all summer and parts of the fall. Area and ‘soon to be bigtime’ stars appeared on a regular schedule. Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, western movie star Ken Maynard and his sidekick Rawhide, Johnny Cash and other names, big at the time but no longer remembered.”

And Audrey Miller of Windsor wraps us up for today, saying, “Valley View Park was south of Hellam at the top of the ‘Hellam Hill.’ Shorty Fincher was in charge. It was there for a long time. My home as at the bottom of the hill and every Sunday night during the summer we could hear every song and word that was said – especially if the wind was coming that way. The program went on until midnight. I never cared for ‘hillbilly music,’ so I really didn’t enjoy hearing all the music. People rode the bus from York to Hellam and then walked from Hellam to the park. Of course then they walked back to Hellam to get the ride home.”

Thanks to everyone for sharing these memories of “the Valley!”

Got any questions? Ask Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future “Ask Joan” column on this blog. I get a large volume, but I will feature three each week and answer as many as possible!

About Joan

My name is Joan and I'm a lifelong Yorker. Throughout high school and college, I swore I was getting out of here as soon as possible. Now, a few years later, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. I love my town, and I hear every day from readers who love their towns, too. So please, connect with me and let's share what makes life in York County great. I'm here to help you enjoy this place as much as I do!
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2 Responses to Ask Joan: End of the school year, Valley View Park edition

  1. Jim Fahringer says:

    I was very young when Valley View Park was in full swing, but I do remember visiting the park when I was 5 – 8 years old in the early 1950’s. My grandmother loved country music (the old style) and she would often take my cousin and me to the park. Her son and my uncle was a barber in Hellam for over 60 years. When we visited him we often went up to the park. The main part(center stage) of the park was centered in that area just beyond where the present day Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall now stands. I remember such acts as Roy Rogers and Trigger. When I was a very little boy I remember visiting the park and seeing this wonderful all girl singing group. What stands out most in my mind is the beautiful turquoise blue western costumes decorated with sequins. The girls also wore matching cowgirl boots and I fell in love with them immediately. This was the first crush I ever had on anyone. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of this group. This group could have gone on to become one of Country Western’s famous groups, as so many groups did, that performed at Valley View.

    One of the other memories was the park at night. The lights would come on(strings of lights) when it was dark. I remember the chicken corn soup, which was sold in the kitchen pavilion. One of my childhood memories was playing one of the several games of chance in the park. This game was the lucky floating duck game. The floating ducks would float around in the swishing circular trough. You would pay a dime and choose a duck. The ducks would have numbers on the bottom. If you had a lucky number you would win a prize. I remember winning a beautiful small forest green pattern glass bowl. You would have thought I had won a million dollars. I clutched that precious green glass bowl in my arms and couldn’t wait to get home to present it to my mom. As I recall it was the very first gift I ever gave to my mom entirely on my own. Some 60 years later, I still have that forest green bowl, packed away with my many other memories. My mom has has been gone for five years now but I still remember that night I gave her that dish and how happy I was and how happy my mom was. Valley View was indeed a very popular spot where the people of York could attend live concerts and performances of the nation’s top country music stars or budding country music stars. I wish I could have seen Lash La Rue. His TV program was one of my favorites as a kid. As the years progressed, the big country music acts didn’t come as often and the park eventually closed as a venue for country western music acts.

    I do remember that in the very late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Otis McCall opened the park as a flea market. Flea market dealers would set up in many of the out buildings with their wares. I bought some neat items there during that time. Oh, how York could use a good flea market like this again! Various church groups also used the park during the 1970’s. I remember a special revival type meeting being held there in the 1970’s sponsored by Calvary Bible Church in East Prospect. One of the really neat things I saw and experienced that night was a special presentation by local chalk artist, Austin Wright, from Red Lion. He used colored chalk and then turned on black lights and infra red lights for special effects. He would also play a saw with a violin bow. In these same meetings I also saw a man who played glass stemware. The man had the crystal glass stemware filled to various depths with colored water, which were tuned to specific keys and pitches. Strings of colored Christmas lights were woven around the individual stemware pieces. The man also applied a little bit of glycerin to the rims of each piece of stemware. In a circular twirling pattern the man rubbed his fingers around the top rim of each stem goblet to create a wonderful sound. A number of gospel songs were played in this unique manner. The sound was most memorable and beautiful. Around 1972 or 1973, the Jacobs Brothers Gospel Singing Group sponsored one of their first “All Night” Gospel Sings at Valley View. Many of the nation’s top Southern Gospel Music Groups sang there that weekend. Some of the groups that I remember were the Blackwood Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys and a number of others. The Statlers may also have appeared during that “All Night” Gospel Sing as well. I remember the excitement when many of the attendees heard that the Jacob Brothers were thinking of purchasing the park and making it their Gospel King’s Kids Camp. Unfortunately, the Jacobs Brothers needed more land than Valley View could provide. There was an effort to negotiate with the owners of the surrounding farmland but the effort was not successful. So, the Jacobs Brothers decided to build their King’s Kids Camp in Dillsburg. That is a shame.

    In just a very few more years many of the memories of Valley View Park will pass, just as those young visitors to the park will also pass away and experience that great Park in the sky where many of these old country music stars are singing Heavenly music now. Thank you for reviving memories of this truly unique park where many nationally known Country Western Groups performed for the people of York County.

    • Jim Fahringer says:

      I forgot to mention that I heard Bob Harrington, the Chaplain of Bourbon Street, speak at Valley View Park in the 1970’s – probably around 1978. He was a world renowned Evangelist. He may have spoken there during the Jacobs Brothers “All Night” Gospel weekend, but I don’t think so. A church may also have sponsored him.

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