Some Ask Joan topics seem to take on a life of their own, and one former York County entertainment spot is among them! We last talked about it back in May…
Today’s Ask Joan follows up on EVEN MORE memories of Hellam Township’s former Valley View Park.
Since May’s column, I’ve received more Valley View photos and stories to share. A theme throughout was that this York County landmark was often home to folks who would later go on to even greater fame!
Dottie and Elmer Schnader reached out to me via Facebook and said, “We were at Valley View Park 1946 or 47. The 3 Stooges were on stage. That was before they became famous. They came off stage & sat down with us & we talked awhile & they gave us a picture, an all 3 of them signed it. Larry, Curly & Moe. At the top of the picture they wrote Sincerely The 3 Stooges. They were so nice. We love them.”
Jim Fahringer writes, “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.”
Jim continues, “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 LaRue. 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.”
He adds, “I do remember that in the very late 1960s and early 1970s, 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 1970s. I remember a special revival type meeting being held there in the 1970s 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 infrared 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.”
And then Jim recalled, “I heard Bob Harrington, the Chaplain of Bourbon Street, speak at Valley View Park in the 1970s – 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.”
He concludes, “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.”
I also received photos from a reader of Shorty and Sally Fincher, who several readers recalled as being “in charge” of Valley View. This reader wrote, “I just read your article on Valley View Park. So glad I did. I had found some old pictures that were my grandmother’s and I had no idea who they were, other than their names, Shorty Fincher and Sally Fincher. I don’t know anything else about them, but my grandmother died in 1961 so it was sometime before then.”
And finally, Bonnie White writes, “I, too, remember Valley View Park. I went there as a teenager to see the 101 Ranch Boys. They not only played Valley View but also cut some records. One of these 101 Ranch Boys was Smokey Roberts. Smokey was the accordion player. Not many people know this, but he went on to become a well-known underwater videographer even having some of his footage in a movie. I believe it was “The Deep.” His dive shop was known as ‘Smokey’s Diver’s Den” in Lancaster, PA. Years after I had seen him as one of the 101 Ranch Boys, I learned to dive from him and indeed traveled around the world scuba diving with him. It was only later that I learned he was one of the 101 Ranch Boys at one time and I had been thrilled to see him on stage when I was a teenager. He and his wife Dottie are still good friends of ours. He and Dottie were both part our wedding at Hellam Quarry, and yes he still can play a mean accordion and sing beautifully too! Just thought you’d like to know what a small world it is. What a jump from Valley View Park to diving with Jacques Cousteau! Valley View Park hosted some interesting shows through the years. What wonderful memories!”
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!