THE MAYOR REPORT: Gracie and the 'girls' in the 1950s

Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor

What a beautiful Sunday afternoon as Tina and I are doing some real side porch sittin'! 4th of July, 2021. I’m enjoying some patriotic music on the radio. I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July weekend with friends and family.

I remember writing this article one year ago every week. I would ask … how are you doing? COVID-19 changed everything for us. We lost loved ones and we were locked down except for essential provisions trips. So "How are you doing?" is what I wrote so often to support family and friends. Get on the phone and call them on a regular basis. I encourage you to keep it up. As a DARE officer, one the classes I taught to fifth-graders was “support systems.” It is so important to have constant support systems in place for all of us. 

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

OK ... a special thanks to all members, past and present, to the G-A Lioness Club. You served this community well for 42 years contributing over $400,000 in support of community organizations, scholarships and other projects. I shall especially miss your Christmas bazaar and the wonderful food that we enjoyed each autumn. Thank you, ladies, for serving this wonderful community. I pray that our young citizens will step up, join some volunteer community civic organizations and get involved in G-A. Volunteerism makes communities strong. 

Now, parents and grandparents, gather your teenagers around. I want them to read this article. I now write about the wonderful story that appeared in the June 24 edition of the Echo Pilot where the family of Dr. Grace Bert Cannon donated funds to support students at GAHS. Dr. Bert Cannon graduated from Greencastle High School in 1954. The high school was located in the first block of South Washington Street where the office building and town homes are located. Two multi-story schools were on the site until they were replaced by the current elementary and primary schools. Before the schools were built the lot was a cemetery. Remains were reinterred to Cedar Hill Cemetery or other locations so the land could be reinvented for public education.

So, what was life like growing up in Greencastle in the early 1950s? Well, I went to the experts to find out. Those who are now in their mid-80s and early 90s who lived it. I’m told the “girls” of town affectionately knew Dr. Bert Cannon as “Gracie.” She grew up on East Baltimore Street at Spring Grove Avenue.

How did you get around? You walked or rode your bicycle, of course. After school the "girls" would walk over to Mo (or Moe) Hollinger’s sandwich shop and “hang out.” I hear what you’re saying ... where was Mo Hollinger’s sandwich shop? It is now a single-family dwelling half way down the first block of South Washington Street by the alley known as East Spruce Lane. Mo had sandwiches and soda. He and his family lived upstairs while the eatery was downstairs. There were other great places around downtown where teens could hang out.

Now Gracie (Dr. Bert Cannon) had her yearbook picture right beside Russ Clever. I’m sure my late friend teased the heck out of Gracie. The “girls” would enjoy helping Mr. (Fred) Kaley at the school circus and gymnastics show. Mr. Kaley’s military service Hometown Hero banner adorns downtown.

The "girls” would go to the movies at the State Theater where B Street 104’s events room is located. Every time I’m there for an event, I love to view the black-and-white photos on the walls of the former theater along with the movie posters in the establishment. I believe you needed a quarter to see the movies there. Can you believe Gracie and fellow classmates were dismissed from school early one day to go to the movies and watch “Gone With The Wind”? I figure they were probably studying the Civil War as this was a part of the history.

About Gracie: Small-town girl, scientist, single mother. Outdoor classroom honors 1954 Greencastle grad

On the banners: Who are Greencastle-Antrim's Hometown Heroes?

The “girls” were also active in Tri-Hi-Y Club which was actually started by the YMCA, and known as Hi-Y for boys only. Tri-Hi-Y was the female version that became very popular in that period.

Thank you, Dr. Bert Cannon, for growing up on East Baltimore Street and providing many advancements for man and woman kind. I do want to read your book “All of It” about growing up in a small town known as Greencastle, Pennsylvania.

OK, young people reading this article, I want you to get a copy of the June 24 Echo Pilot and read “Outdoor classroom donated in honor of Dr. Grace Bert Cannon.”  I just heard what you said ... can’t I read it online? Sure you can. Just google Shawn Hardy’s writing. Gee. I’m glad I grew up before computers and cell phones ... I’m just sayin’.  

In this article I intended to write about all of the activities the staff at the borough office helps us with, however, I’ll enjoy some porch sittin’ in two weeks and get out the manual typewriter (or laptop) and follow through.

Happy post-4th of July everyone. Thanks again to the Lioness members and Dr. Bert Cannon “Gracie.”  Because of each and every one of you ... we are blessed.