Back a private lane off of Tracey School Road in Hellam Township once sat a butcher shop that served the people of the surrounding areas in Hellam, Yorkshire, Stony Brook, and East York. This was the Sechrist Butcher Shop, started in 1934 by Chester & Bertha Sechrist.
The butcher shop resided on the same property as the family’s home, and I happen to be familiar with that family home. My wife grew up in this home and my in-laws, Mike & Rhonda Rhoads, still reside here. After my article about Highmount & Pine Swamp, Rhonda assigned me the task of finding out what I could about the Sechrist Butcher Shop. Not knowing where to start, I began reaching out to contacts I had regarding the Nubbintown area, a town just a quarter-mile from the property. I researched and wrote an article about Nubbintown, and had the good fortune of getting back on the Sechrist Butcher Shop “scent” after meeting June Snyder (Sechrist) a relative of the Sechrists who owned the butcher shop. One person connected me with another and ultimately I was able to talk to Betty Neff, daughter of Chester & Bertha Sechrist.
Chester & Bertha Sechrist had six children: Bill, Hazel, Violet, Ethel, Claire, & Betty. The whole family pitched in for the business, even Betty, the youngest of the children. And mother Bertha, as Betty recalls, was once set on having the one-time duty of killing a calf for veal just to know (Betty admits it sounds awful now). Chester knew how to be a butcher because most men in farming communities knew how to butcher in those days. So Chester started the business, bought two trucks and had “BUTCHER,” and “REFRIGERATED” printed on the trucks, and started two routes.
One route went to Stony Brook, Hallam, Yorkshire and the surrounding areas. This route was his son Bill’s route. The other route went into East York, and this was Richard Grimm’s route. Richard is the husband of Violet. These routes ran Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays and went from house to house visiting frequent customers and trying to acquire new ones.
The trucks would be packed with ice and then loaded with all different cuts of mostly beef and pork. They also sold fresh sandwich meat prepared by Betty. The pork they sold was always locally sourced from other farmers. The beef was sometimes raised on their Tracey School Road property. They would raise 20 steers a year. Many times though, they would buy the cows from the Lancaster Stockyard. Interestingly, Betty recalls one occasion when they were unloading one of the beeves and it got “got rambunctious!” The cow was eventually found, believe it or not, back across the Susquehanna River presumably going “home.”
The Sechrist Butcher Shop had a strong run through 1956-1957 when they closed up shop. Betty doesn’t recall when it occurred, but the “city route” was given up first and eventually the family moved onto other things. Betty’s brother, Bill, started Sechrist Television business in Hallam where televisions could be purchased and repaired (more on this another time, perhaps). The property on Tracey School Road, host to the butcher shop, was sold soon after they closed up in 1956-1957. Ownership has changed hands several times until the Rhoads family bought it in 1990. The butcher shop was dilapidated and could not be saved, but the memory lives on.
Betty has many fond memories of growing up in the same house in which my wife grew up. Some things are still the same, and some things are different. The original house is still there with a spring house and a barn. In appreciation for her help with the article, I was able to arrange a time for Betty, and her nieces, Doris Klahold (daughter of Bill) & Joyce Rosengrant (daughter of Violet) to visit the property 60+ years since they had last seen it. I enjoyed witnessing the ladies’ reaction and hearing them reminisce of the former butcher shop, and their home.