What does it mean to be a York Countian? A look at why I’m still here

Bob Fitzkee arranges hand-rolled vanilla butter crème chocolates atop the sales counter inside Fitzkee's Candies on Route 74 in York Township in 2005.

Bob Fitzkee arranges hand-rolled vanilla butter crème chocolates atop the sales counter inside Fitzkee’s Candies on Route 74 in York Township in this 2005 YDR photo. Fitzkee’s mother started making chocolates during the Great Depression and the family has been in the candy business ever since. The sign on the wall is from the 1940s. Only in York County author Joan Concilio grew up selling Fitzkee’s and other candies at her mom’s business, Joan’s Candy Corner, at the Market & Penn Farmers’ Market and spent plenty of time seeing the Fitzkee family making chocolates.

It all started with a trip a few years ago to the Smithsonian.

Our family happened on a small piece of an exhibit. A few computers were set up with a prompt that simply asked, “What does it mean to be human?” Responses were limited in length, and visitors were asked to answer with whatever was meaningful to them.

Answered veered from serious — my daughter, Sarah, then 12, said “to be able to have our own beliefs and meet people from different parts of the world” — to silly, like some husbands who will remain mostly nameless, who mentioned petting cats and the general agony of being a Phillies fan.

But as I looked at the answers from around the world, I was struck by how much it feels great to be a part of something.

Fast-forward to this year’s York Fair, at which, per custom, YDR staffers planned to spend 10 days hanging out, meeting people, and generally talking about what it is that we do as a local news organization.

Our signup sheets were full of ideas. Political reporter Ed Mahon was going to show off some of his digital work related to the governor’s race. April Trotter and Rebecca Hanlon, leaders of our “No Sweat, York” fitness initiative, arranged for on-site health screenings. They were all cool, but I felt like they didn’t get at what I love most about going to the fair, an annual event I don’t think I’ve missed more than once or twice as far back as I can remember.

I love the fair because it feels like home. I feel like part of something when I’m surrounded by 10,000 of my closest Yorker friends. It actually gets at why I’m still here in York County, 32 years after I got here at 3 days old, even though I swore for years that as soon as I was done with high school, I was headed for Anywhere But Hereville.

And that made me wonder about why everyone else is here.

Look, I get it. There are lots of practical reasons to be in a place like York County — you got a job offer here that paid more, with a lower cost of living and better weather than the heat of New Mexico; you met someone in college who needed to move back after graduation to take care of a family member; you have a house that’s been in the family for years, fully paid off, and you can’t afford not to live there.

These are real stories from people I know. But they’re reasons to arrive — not the reasons you stay.

And that’s what I wanted to find out.

What does it mean to be a York Countian?

Or, to put it another way, what is it that keeps you here? That’s what led to the ongoing project that I’m featuring here on Only in York County, and that’s being highlighted in this ydr.com story and in our print Living section on Sunday, Sept. 21.

For me, being a York Countian means not being able to go anywhere without running into someone I know. Sometimes people who’ve known me since I was a baby, sometimes high school or college classmates, former coworkers, people from 4-H, from previous jobs, people who read my column in the paper… there’s almost nowhere I go where I don’t know someone from somewhere.

It means eating Lola’s waffles and ice cream at the fair and drinking Kohr’s orangeade.

It’s that moment when you cross the bridge from Lancaster County and just know you’re “back.”

It means feeling at home, whether it’s at a high school football game, around a campfire, at the dirt track, at market, or out for a night of shopping and food downtown.

Those aren’t the reasons that brought me here. But they’re the reasons I’m still here.

Tell me why you’re still here.

I can’t wait to find out.

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Ask Joan: Trying to catch up edition

As happens a few times each year, I’ve spent the past week both clearing out my email inbox (which feels great) and stressing out over the number of not-yet-fielded Ask Joan questions I have in it (which feels less great).

In honor, I’m putting a couple of extra questions out there today, including several I could particularly use your help with!

What’s inside
1. Recipe for Knaub’s bakery cake
2. Seeking info on Stillman’s store
3. Apple Pan Dowdy recipe sought
4. Naming North Mall jewelry store
5. How to find older articles
Continue reading “Ask Joan: Trying to catch up edition” »

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Ask Joan: Are you ready for the fair?

Ready for this year’s York Fair? I’ve already been there twice and it hasn’t even opened yet! (Dropping off contest entries, and helping set up the YDR’s booth in Memorial Hall.) I hope you’ll come see me there next Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 2 to 4 p.m. Make sure you say hello!

What’s inside
1. Is it really “first fair”?
2. and 3. Seeking info on name origins
Continue reading “Ask Joan: Are you ready for the fair?” »

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Assorted notes on Bury’s and Playland


Last week, reader Andrew Diehl asked a question about what was immediately to the right of the Playland skating rink as you looked at it head-on from Market Street.

I’d heard previously from a few people that it might have been Bury’s burgers, but some of us in the local history community were a little confused, because we’d heard of Bury’s being in other slightly different locations in the area.

This is one of the things I love most about what I do: I am surrounded both in-person and digitally with people who have a passion for the things I’m interested in, and who love to work together to find out more about them.

In this case, fellow Yorkblogger Stephen H. Smith of YorksPast took the ball and ran it to the goal line, to use an overdone metaphor appropriate for football season, showing that all of the above is basically true; Bury’s was at many locations in the area of Playland, and he details them complete with years!

Check out his research here: Bury’s in Springettsbury Township was not just hamburgers. (There’s a great street-view photo of Bury’s there, too, that is well worth checking out!)

Since Stephen did all the work, that leaves me the fun of sharing some memories readers sent when flooding me with memories of Bury’s, Playland and that area in general, which I am very glad to do, especially now, since, with the York Fair gearing up to start again on Friday, Sept. 5, you’ll soon be able to take your choice of the two modern Bury Burger incarnations!

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Ask Joan some history questions

What’s inside
1. Seeking info on Hilton Station
2. What was next to Playland?
3. Red Sox exhibition in York?
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Ask Joan: Reporting on what you want to know edition

Today’s Ask Joan features a combination of two of my favorite things: Helping readers with their questions about York County, and telling fun stories in our newspaper and on our websites.

What’s inside
1. Is it Leader or Leaders Heights?
2. Average home prices in York
3. What’s our bus doing in Texas?
Continue reading “Ask Joan: Reporting on what you want to know edition” »

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Ask Joan: The “mostly local questions, but also New Jersey” edition

In kind of a bonus Ask Joan aside today, I received a question last week seeking information that’s NOT “Only in York County.” Reader Bob wrote, “Around 1980-81, the Echelon Mall, in Voorhees, NJ had a fitness center (I believe it was on the outside of the mall before you went in). Does anyone remember the name? I’m searching for someone who worked there during this time period.”

So this interests me mostly because of a fun juxtaposition – I was born in Voorhees, a little-known fact about me; while I’ve lived in York County since I was 3 days old, I am not technically a “native” and am, in fact, a Jersey girl.

So if anyone happens to know the name of a store in a mall in Voorhees for Bob, hey, why not comment?

Now, onto the local questions:

What’s inside
1. Seeking Bear’s sticky bun recipe
2. How to submit your news
3. Anna Elizabeth Taylor, mystery woman
Continue reading “Ask Joan: The “mostly local questions, but also New Jersey” edition” »

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Ask Joan: Summer fun destinations edition

What’s inside
Today’s Ask Joan takes a look at a couple of summer fun destinations about which readers are seeking more memories – first, Springwood Park and Pool; second, the former Meadowbrook Swim Club in the northeastern York County area.
Continue reading “Ask Joan: Summer fun destinations edition” »

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Readers remember Squire’s Pub and other Mailman’s and Queensgate-area restaurants

In last week’s Ask Joan, reader Chris Johnson asked about a former restaurant in what’s now the Queensgate Shopping Center.

Can I just tell you all – WOW. I don’t remember the last time I heard from so many people about a question?

As it turns out, that location was the Squire’s Pub for many years, then Nicholas’s Pub, and possibly some other things even after that.

Within about a day of that column being published, I had something like 30 emails, 3 visits to my office and a couple of phone calls, all with readers wanting to let me know what they remembered about those establishments. I’m sharing a selection of them today; I received many, many more, and I do want to say thanks to everyone who replied!

Betsy and Terry Allison of York Township wrote to me and said “Chris asked the name of the restaurant in the Queensgate Shopping Center that served excellent veal dishes. I just spoke with the former owner who gave me a short history of the restaurant. It was originally opened by Bud Boyer under the name of Squire’s Pub. Several years later, it was bought by Tom and Sandy Nicholas and renamed Nicholas’s Pub. That is the name I remember, as it was my parents’ favorite place to dine when they visited us. The veal dishes were the best we have ever eaten. The restaurant closed after the Weis expansion and Sandy opened The Corner Stables restaurant in the (Olde) Tollgate Shopping Center in York Township, which is now known for its ribs. I hope this is what Chris was looking for. Thanks so much for an entertaining column.”

A fun note came from Alicia Helfrich, who said it was her first time responding to an Ask Joan column! “There have been many times I have answered or commented about readers write-ins verbally to my husband from my seat in our den,” she wrote! She said, “To answer the question of the restaurant Chris is looking for: it was called The Squire’s Pub. It was owned by a gentleman named Tom. I can’t remember his last name. Also, Elby’s Big Boy was located where Frank Theaters is currently located. Gino’s, which I am well associated with, was located where Wonderful Garden Chinese restaurant is currently located.” Alicia also noted there was a Dress Barn store in the strip mall where Frank Theaters is now, along with a state liquor store.

On a side note, Alicia had a question too; she writes, “Does anyone remember the original Seven Cousins or the original Grapevine (it may have been called) located between the old Hills dept. store, and the current Weis markets store on Market Street? It was tucked away in a small location. You had the Lincoln Woods, Gino’s, Hills, and this Seven Cousins or Grapevine restaurant, with The Office restaurant located where the Red Lobster now sits. (There was a Grapevine on Belmont, this is not the location I am speaking about.)” And she concluded, “I came to answer Chris’s question, but got carried away with memories.”

That’s the best way to spend your day, in my opinion, Alicia!

I also heard from Wayne Lutz, Sharon Groff, Holly Griffin, Dawn M., Mary Brandt, Mary Ellen Hoyt and Patti Page; from Bill Bankoske, who described Squire’s as “a very nice place;” Maria Musti, who wrote, “When I worked nearby we went there for special lunches. They made an excellent crab omelette!”; and Brenda Killion, who said, “They had wonderful veal dishes and an awesome ‘Seafood Platter’ that was huge!!! Great food, spirits and many wonderful memories from there.”

Bob Hohman said it was immediately adjacent to what was then a Pantry Pride supermarket. “The restaurant’s decor was Mediterranean,” Bob wrote. “A squire’s shield outside welcomed customers. Immediately inside the entrance was a bar running parallel to the length of the establishment. Then came the kitchen. In back was a full-service dining room offering a large variety of main dishes.”

Well, that sounds beautiful, though not quite like another reader, Jon from Glen Rock, remembered. He described: “The name you’re looking for is Squire’s Pub! The exterior was done in a Tudor style with yellow pebbled glass and two black lamps hanging on either side of the entrance. Why I remember this I have no idea except as a child my parents would take my brother Bobby and I there, not to the restaurant but to Race O Rama where we would purchase our Matchbox or Hot Wheel cars. Thanks for evoking memories!”

I also heard from Sue Farrell of Mount Wolf, who said the Squire’s Pub was “a nice place to eat and socialize.” She writes, “My high school boyfriend, his brother and sister all worked there as buskids. The waitresses I recall most were named Mary and Sally. I was allowed to visit and hang out at the busboy station on quiet nights. The education I received from those toughened waitresses was indeed valuable! I believe the owner’s name was Jimmy. It was a great place for us to go on homecoming since we knew everyone. … Thanks for joggling the the happy memory bank.”

From Jill Eckenrode Huska, I heard more about owner “Jimmy” or “Jimmie” as we also heard him referred to. Jill wrote, “The restaurant in question at Queensgate shopping center was indeed Squire’s Pub. Owned by my deceased father-in-law James L. Eckenrode Sr. His specialties were anything veal. Veal Piccata, Veal Marsala, Veal Oscar… you name it, he made it, and he made it well. Many of his veal dishes were named after local dignitaries. His onion loaf was a favorite of mine. I remember a time when I wanted chickpeas in my salad, he didn’t have them in the kitchen so he sent someone to Weis for them… just for me :) They were wonderful times. We were all so sad to see it go… but excited when he asked me to come to the walk-in freezer and take anything I wanted home. Restaurant size cheesecakes were definitely in my take home bag. He then helped start Corner Stables in Spry/Dallastown area with the wonderful baby back ribs. They were wonderful years. He passed away in the late 1980s.”

Ann Kordenbrock also remembered a man she called Jimmie, who specialized in veal dishes. She wrote, “Our son was a busboy and when he was not busy he would watch Jimmie cook and he became quite a gourmet cook himself and made spending money at college catering dinners for friends who wanted a ‘special’ dinner for a date.”

And from readers Steve and Mary Bancroft, I heard about this and other local eateries. They wrote, “The restaurant was Squire’s Pub, one of our favorites, in the same area were several other faves. The Tyler Inn (SW corner of Tyler Run Road and South Queen), Dew Drop Inn ( just down Dew Drop Rd from S. Queen), Bill Skouras’ Trail Lounge (S. George St. at Tyler Run), Bob Yost’s The Office (in the front part of the old York County Shopping Center about where the video store used to be facing E. Market St.) and don’t forget Lennie MacDonald’s The Hill (on top of S. Queen St., now Crimson occupies the spot). All great local watering and eating spots. Those were the good old days!”

After Squire’s

So after all that, the restaurant became a few other things. Reader Carl Huber remembered Nicholas’s Pub, as did Debbie Mohr.

Others remembered the Big Boy restaurant in the same plaza, though I’m not sure if it was the same location or not, based on differing memories; Stephanie Beddia wrote, “I can still envision that big head!” of that restaurant. She added, “I spent a lot of time in that area. When Stanley Mailman opened his store, he asked my grandparents, then in their late 60s to come and work there. They worked there into their 80s.”

Another reader, Tony T., said he recalled a restaurant there called The HUB. I hadn’t yet heard of that one, but he says it had a really good crab imperial!

And more recently, Bob Anderson noted, “My son remembers a restaurant called Authors.” This is also a location I recall, and was in more recent years.

Bob wrote, “It was a very small place, and brought lots of folk singers in to perform. It was right next to the entrance of the Movie Theatre, and you could look into it when going into the theatre. This would have been on the north side of the alley, so north of Weis Market. And it was in the mid ’80s and ’90s, but I hope this helps.”

Finally, reader Carol reminded me of the Facebook group that my brother-in-law Mike and many other friends are active in, called I Grew Up in York, PA, in the 50’s & 60’s. She said, “We had quite a discussion about Squire’s Pub. This group is really into York PA from the past… 2000 members.”

I love to pop into that group when I can, and it was a great reminder to stop by for a visit!

Wow. Thank you all for recalling Squire’s Pub, Nicholas’s and other Mailman’s/Queensgate eateries of the past!

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Ask Joan: Questions and memories edition

What’s inside
1. Remembering Alice Hoffer’s dress shop
2. Was mall gym Fitness America?
3. Seeking name of Queensgate restaurant
Continue reading “Ask Joan: Questions and memories edition” »

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