The annual Christmas displays in the windows of the Lancaster County Convention Center are but a shadow of the crowd-drawing exhibitions staged in the windows of the old Watt & Shand department store at that site half a century and more ago.
Christmas was not the only time windows were decorated, and Watt & Shand was not the only store that participated. Art Pavlatos, of Lancaster, remembers the 1950s, when downtown merchants set aside windows for high school students to paint Halloween scenes. The scenes were judged and awarded prizes.
As a Penn Manor High School senior in 1959, Pavlatos entered the contest at the urging of his art teacher, Harry Book.
“I was assigned Hager’s store window in the alley across from Central Market,” Pavlatos recalls. “It was a balmy and sunny day when I was painting a witch riding a rocket in space.” Pavlatos placed second in the contest.
“I often think about Halloween in the 1950s in downtown Lancaster,” says the retired Lampeter-Strasburg High School social studies teacher. “Could that contest be offered once again, providing some Halloween decor in the downtown?”
Not a bad idea, now that downtown Lancaster has made a comeback, thanks largely to the convention center, the private investment it inspired, and the enthusiasm of residents and visitors for positive change. Maybe city merchants could develop a decorating contest for next year.
Catching up on old business:
— On Sept. 11, The Scribbler discussed a March 30, 1940, Saturday Evening Post story by Lancaster native G. Paul Musselman that described local Amish and their customs.
Musselman noted that Amish elders concerned about their youth drinking at the Traveler’s Rest on the northeast corner of Route 340 and Route 772 purchased the inn and closed it. An Amish historian confirmed this story.
Well, that’s not quite right, according to Ruth Ann Hoober Loynd, who grew up living in that inn.
Loynd, who now lives with husband Bob in Wilmington, Delaware, says her father, Clem Hoober, purchased the hotel in the early 1930s, when she was about 4 years old. He turned the tap room into apartments and the family lived in the rest of the house.
Here’s how the Amish figure into it, according to Loynd.
“The Amish came to my father and said they would pay him if they put it on the deed that there never could be liquor sold on that property,” she explains. So that’s why the Traveler’s Rest stopped serving alcohol forever.
— Now, as to who placed tires into the tops of five Leola trees half a century ago (Scribbler column, Sept. 25), James Dillner, who lives in the village, says that more than 30 years ago, Leola Tire, a business only a block from Heller’s Church Road, may have been the source of the tires.
“I’m sure they would have had worn-out tires laying around that could have been stolen to do the prank.” he says.
One of those tires — in a tree on Brethren Church Road — came down with the tree two years ago. The other four remain among upper branches.
— And lastly, “Little Texas.” Since discussing how the place was named in this column on April 17 and May 8, Millie Brubaker has done more research on the place “on the other side of the tracks” in Salunga. There were several houses and businesses, including Myers Well Drilling, along Holland Street.
Speculation on the naming of the area has come down to two points, according to Brubaker: the shape of the area occupied by these buildings resembled the shape of Texas, and the well drilling business reminded some people of how Texans drilled for another liquid.
Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes "The Scribbler'' column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.