Monday, April 11, 2011

More about F.W. Behler from current owner David Yates

Last month I wrote about a 103-year-old receipt from F.W. Behler, a plumbing and heating company that's still in business today in York, Pennsylvania.

Afterward, I had a great exchange of emails with David Yates, who has owned F.W. Behler since 1985. He's well-versed in and passionate about his company's long history, and he agreed to share the following F.W. Behler tales and tidbits. York County residents will recognize many of the names and events Yates refers to.

So, without further ado, I'm turning the rest of today's post over to him:
You should see some of [F.W. Behler's] journal entries with the hourly labor charges from that time-era. Lots of entries for York Railway Co. & one I recall for the steam system in the Carey Etnier mansion.1

Directly across from my desk is a framed photo from 1910 with [company founder Franklin Washington Behler's] picture (bowler hat in the picture - see link) sitting in his horse-drawn wagon on W. Philadelphia St., which was dirt & not paved. Doc, the horse, was stabled nearby at the end of the alley just behind the wagon. We still have his feed bin and spot where he was fed breakfast while being harnessed for the day's work.

Frank moved his business from Jefferson2 to York in 1900 because of the tremendous building-boom. His shop was located just off the square in Jefferson, which later became a grocery store. I was told he began his plumbing & tinning business (virtually all plumbers were tinners & metal roofing work incorporated tinning - soldering using metal irons, bar solder, & muriatic acid as the flux) in 1887, but have never followed up to research & confirm that information with the archival historical records in Jefferson. As an apprentice with F.W. Behler in the early 1970's, I installed miles of copper and galvanized soldered gutters, spouts, & downspouts. A fairly esoteric lost art these days.

The Behlers walked past 473 W. Market St. to/from church & Mrs. B. loved this home that had been build as a spec home in 1903 by an investor from California for $9,000. He sold it to the Behlers for $6,000! David Stauffer (Stauffer's cookies3) courted Bertha Behler in the front parlor (my wife's office today) and we discovered the large pocket doors that were hidden inside the wall, which were refinished and restored.

Mahlon Haines4 rented the 3rd floor apartment at 473 [W. Market St.] when he first moved to York.

The underground restrooms in the square5 were constructed in 1929. When Mayor [Charlie] Robertson wanted them restored, we were chosen to do the mechanical renovations and the absolute last available parts were found in Italy via research we conducted to restore some of the plumbing fixtures. We donated time & materials because the city was catching hell for spending money on those restrooms. They're a wonderful part of history & incorporated changing/shower rooms where, for one thin dime, you could have a private bathroom with shower and changing area to use for as long as needed. Barber shop & shoe-shine on the men's side (I can remember being with Dad for haircuts and he'd have his shoes shined) and a beauty salon on the ladies' side.

We celebrated [F.W. Behler's] 100th anniversary [in 2000] on the square with cake and refreshments for anyone passing by. Mayor Robertson held a ceremony and gave us a nice award. Not too many years later, we were replacing a rooftop A/C unit next door to where Charlie was arraigned & had a bird's eye view of the street-scene below.6 A friend from Baltimore called me on my cell to ask why we were on CNN in the video showing the Mayor's escort into District Court. Lots of the National News media took note of our vantage point & it looked like they were trying to figure out how to get to our spot.
1. Carey E. Etnier was the father of artist Stephen Etnier, who was born in York in 1903. Learn more about Stephen Etnier on this official website and Wikipedia.
2. Jefferson is about 14 miles southwest of York.
3. Read more about the Stauffer family in this 2009 blog entry by June Lloyd: "York Baker Responsible for Chocolate Star and Rabbit Cookies".
4. Mahlon Haines was the colorful shoe salesman who is most famous for constructing the Haines Shoe House in Hellam Township, York County, in 1948. The Shoe House has even been featured in a board game.
5. This refers to the underground "comfort stations" in York's Continental Square. For more, check out this 2009 York Town Square blog entry by Jim McClure: "For decades, York's underground comfort stations spelled relief".
6. For the full background on former York mayor Charlie Robertson, the 1969 York riots (including the murders of police office Henry C. Schaad and Lillie Belle Allen), and the criminal investigation and trials surrounding those riots that were held from 2000 to 2003, see the "Race Riots in York" history section of the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

No comments:

Post a Comment