Ho, ho, ho – uh, Santa on that York Bon-Ton ladder, hold on

With a one-arm wave as the other firmly grasps the ladder, Santa greets the crowd before his entry into York’s Bon-Ton in his annual visit to York. Background posts: The Grumbachers, Builders and Heroes and York scores another first: Wal-Mart’s entry into Pa.

This photo captures post-World War II York, the day of the Big Three – Bon-Ton and its competitors, Wiest’s and Bear’s. (People often say, don’t forget Sears and Jack’s and Gregory’s and McLean’s and … )
Santa parked his sleigh outside York County in those years. He flew into the area by plane and, later, by helicopter. He was ushered by fire truck to the Bon-Ton where he entered the store’s third-floor window… .

These were also the years when each department store tried to construct the best window displays.
And many kids liked riding Bon Ton’s elevator. And in the 1960s, the Bon Ton added to the fun – adding an escalator between its second and third floors.
And people enjoyed holiday meals at the Bon-Ton’s Tearoom, later the Lamp Post.
These were halcyon days of the downtown.
And one more detail.
Notice in the photo the two women looking down on Santa. No doubt, they were making their Christmas lists right then.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Events, Famous York visitors, For photo fans, Local landmarks, People, War, World War II and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ho, ho, ho – uh, Santa on that York Bon-Ton ladder, hold on

  1. Jim Fahringer says:

    The old quaint department stores, as well as the smaller specialty stores, located in downtown York created a really wonderful small town friendly shopping experience. My favorite department store was Bear’s Department Store on the northeast corner of Continental Square. The clerks were the friendliest and the merchandise was higher quality. And the neatest thing was that each department did not have their own cash register, instead a pneaumatic tube, similar to the ones in drive up windows at banks, carried your money to the central office ( I believe it may have been located on the third floor) and your change was placed in the tube and it would return to your location. I also seem to remember that the former Stillman’s Department Store on East Market Street also gave change this way.
    One of my neatest memories was Christmas shopping on a snowy December night. The streets were a buzz with Christmas shoppers hurrying up and down the streets of the first three blocks of north and south George Street and the first three blocks of east and west Market Street. In my case, during the 1960’s and early 1970’s I worked downtown during the holidays from Thanksgiving until Christmas in my great aunt’s bookstore, “Thompsons Book and Stationary Store” at 35 West Market Street in the Rosenmiller Building. My job was to unpack boxes in the stock room and to deliver business and stationary supplies to most of the businesses and law offices downtown. Thompson’s Book and Stationary Store was not more than 25 feet wide and was very long extending from the entrance on Market Street to almost a half city block.
    The store not only sold books, but just about any office, school, or home stationary item imaginable, from the tiniest paper clip to typing and business papers of all types. One of the biggest part of the business was selling religious supplies to area churches and Sunday schools. Remember there were no Christian Book Stores in York during these years. Thompson’s was York’s biggest sellers of Bibles and Sunday School supplies. It was also the only seller of Summer Bible School material to area churches. The decline of downtown business due to York’s racial problems of the late 1960’s, and competition from the development of malls on the outskirts of the city, eventually sealed the closing of the store in the early summer of 1974.
    Often billed as York’s Oldest Bookstore, Thompson’s originally opened on August 25, 1899 at 49 West Market Street by Henry C. Barnhart and was known as “Barnhart’s Book Store”. Mr Barnhart was previously associated with John Baers and Sons, publishers of the Lancaster Almanac. The store moved to 35 West Market Street in August of 1915 when the Rosenmiller Building was completed. The store remained in this location until it closed in 1974. On March 15, 1935 Henry C. Barnhart died and a partnership was formed by Miss Helen L. Barnhart, daughter of the founder, and Arthur B. Thompson. On January 1, 1949 another change of ownership ocurred when a new partnership occurred with Arthur B. Thompson and G. Marie Fetrow. The name of tthe store was changed to Thompson’s Book and Stationary Store that same year. Arthur B. Thompson retired in 1955 and G. Marie Fetrow became the sole owner.

  2. Pamela (Eline) Lawrence says:

    Well, I also worked at Thompson’s Book Store – after school, Saturdays, and summers during my Junior and Senior years (1959-1961) During that time, Miss Fetrow and Ms. Thelma Ilgenfritz co-ran the store and I clerked, did inventory, and helped in the office. They were two women who inspired me to stay in school and graduate. I do not remember a Jim but I do remember a stockroom man named Clyde. I have many fond memories of how busy the store always was and how hard we worked taking inventory – counting each paper clip! And the ministers in York accounted for our best customers – imagine me, a little girl from York Catholic HS (who wasn’t allowed to wear her uniform in the store because it might offend those from other religions!) learning all about Concordants and selling the Vacation Bible School supplies (which were very foreign to me) Ms. Fetrow was very kind and supportive, Ms. Ilgenfritz, well it was always hard to please her but she was honest and hard working. I remember them letting me decorate the windows to match the current “themes” of either back to school supplies or springing into spring and I do remember that in spite of all the room for stock – that narrow store went on forever, and piled high to the ceilings, we never seemed to have enough room. Yes, Thompson Book Store helped me financially cause my family was struggling, but more importantly, it gave me a chance to learn not only about good sales techniques, but values of honesty, patience, and learning how best to meet the needs of each customer. That type of individual attention is what is so sorely lacking in so many of our stores now adays, no matter how large or small.
    Thanks for the article.

  3. James Fahringer says:

    In the late 1960’s to the mid 1970″s I worked at my great Aunt’s bookstore –“Thompson’s Book and Stationary Store in the first block of East Market Street in the city of York. She often told me this story about Mahlon Haines, the Shoe Wizard. One day he came into the store and my great aunt had just hired a high school girl to help in the store. This was in the days before digital cash registers that give you an automatic read-out on how much change to give. The cash registers in this store were actually antique. This girl did not know how to give change and Mahlon Haines recognized this. So, Mr. Haines took off his coat and proceeded to open the cash register on his own and begin teaching the high school girl how to make change. My great aunt ran a tight ship in the store and she happened to see this stranger in her cash register. She immediately rushed to the cash register and wanted to know what was going on. Mr. Haines told her. Well, my great aunt did not appreciate him getting into her cash register and teaching her hired help how to make change in front of other customers. She then politely escorted Mr. Haines out of the store and took the high school student in back of the store and got out some math (making change) workbooks and instructed her to study them each night. Mr. Haines had very few inhibitions.

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