Codorus Street The Village That Was…..
The homes on Codorus Street were taken by the Powers that be in a process called Eminent Domain…..where the people in charge can just Take your property for some contrived reason…..this also Broke up a very Nurturing & supportive Neighborhood of Families…….Here are a few photos of some of the homes on Codorus Street After the people were Kicked off the Street……by the way their supposed original intent was to build a 5 acre Park & Playland for the West End…..But they ended up giving almost Half of the site to the Dentsply Corporation for their use and then they put a Rinky Dink park there supposedly to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr……..
Below are a few of the vacated homes on Codorus before they were all demolished:
A Village named Codorus Street
Codorus Street…..where it all started for me….
A 1955 photo of Codorus street where almost 100 children lived on one Block……..A True Village……..
York’s old Codorus Street neighborhood: ‘I didn’t know one family that didn’t get along with another’
That predominantly black neighborhood, largely covered by Martin Luther King Jr. Park in York’s west end today, was torn down in 1961 in eminent domain action.
“The residents moved on from their former neighborhood,” a Heritage Trust program note states, “but the community still remains.”
The evening was, indeed, deep and wide in moments about the street with 73 addresses that ran from Penn Street on the east to Green Street on the west.
Here are seven moments that stand out, courtesy of panelists Jeff Kirkland, Rosetta Hawkins, Marilyn Duckett Smith, Brenda Rice and Ken Laughman:
1. The street itself contributed to community – one long street with little traffic. It was a community where people met on steps, visited on the street and whose front doors were never locked. Diverse community members mingled. “We were talking about the village concept before Hillary Clinton made it famous,” Jeff Kirkland said.
2. Many black families moving from the Bamberg, S.C. , area came there as part of the migration north for jobs in the 1920s. So the homes along the street housed multiple families and generations, as people came north to live with relatives. Codorus Street families would pull open clothes drawers to provide beds for children to sleep. Families along the street were among the working poor but considered themselves well off in family life.
3. Codorus Street families, like black people elsewhere in York, often faced racial discrimination. For example, parents would accompany their children in York’s stores. The parents knew those parts of the stores and eateries where black people could and couldn’t go. The practice in York schools to segregate elementary children in Aquilla Howard and Smallwood schools before the mid-1950s but integrating York High School still puzzled panelists.
4. Food, or sometimes lack of it, was deep in the memories of Codorus Streeters. They talked about rice as a staple at many meals, as well as the regularity of chicken as the main dish. “I tell you they knew how to cook on Codorus Street,” Laughman said. For breakfast, coffee soup was served. What’s coffee soup, a member of the audience asked? It was wet toast. Put toast in a bowl and poor coffee over it was the answer.
5. The Codorus Streeters reflected on the big pastime of playing marbles, going to church, “Miss Rhodie’s” popular eatery and the interesting perception that those neighborhoods closer to the Codorus Creek were poorer than those relatively farther from the waterway. They recalled the nearby Cookes House, a 1760s stone structure tied to American Revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine that contrasted with the brick and clapboard houses along the street. Treasure hunts in the floors and walls of the stone house brought no treasure, though.
6. When eminent domain came, families felt a sense of hopelessness and remembered tears. They could recall no negotiations. Jeff Kirkland was 10 when the order came down to move, and he remembers the rich neighborhood life. “That was sort of yanked away from you,” he said. Several panelists asked city and other government officials to think about the impact of eminent domain on tight-knit communities.
7. The families dispersed around the city, several moving to Kurtz Avenue. Former community members are still friends, still see each other at funerals and other gatherings. And, of course, the Codorus Streeters now are meeting annually in a reunion at MLK Jr. Park. In those reunions, each family “sets up” at the site where they think their home once stood as a reminder of those days when, according to Ken Laughman: “I didn’t know one family that didn’t get along with another.”
CODORUS STREET ACTIVITIES
This one is for my Girl Terri Woodyard Ford…..a photo of the 1944 Codorus Street Baby Contest with my Aunt Brenda as the Fattest Baby, Myrtle Generette as the baby with the Curliest Hair, Jack Bridgette the Largest baby, Terri as the Smallest baby, Elmer Woodyard with the Largest Dimples, George Spells and Oscar Hudson with the Largest Eyes & Phyllis Bridgette with the longest Hair………Wow…….
Has anyone ever heard of Mushball…..well here is a photo of the 1944 Codorus playground Mushball Champions with some very Familiar names…..James Woodyard, Hal Brown, John Webb, David Ritter, Sanford Liggens, John McDaniels, Robert Preston and several others…..
Back when we were kids on Codorus Street we played games like Marbles…….I know you youngsters are saying Whaat….Marbles…….Yes Marbles in fact our friend Major Gilbert became the Pennsylvania State Marble Champion at age 11……here’s a photo and article about Major as he prepared for the National Marble Tournament in 1959…..
One of York’s Great Black Artist was Raymond Hughes. He painted numerous murals on the walls of downtown business such as Sol Kesslers and the York Bank & Trust buildings. Here Ray teaches Codorus Street kids how to paint.
Happy Travelers Club
Photo of York’s Happy Travelers Club including left to right; Charles Burgess Green, Virginia Freeland, Robert Jenkins, Mrs. Mildred Chapman, Mrs. Elsie Jenkins, Mrs. Sandra Kinrd, William Russell Chapman, Wilbur Spells and the tour escorts Mr. & Mrs. George Amos Palmer. The group had just returned from the Bahamas…….
Rev. Thomas E. Montouth A York Legend
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. the Pursuit of Excellence
York Alumni Chapter
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The Pursuit of Excellence
A good friend of mine, who is a member of the York Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. asked me if I would write a piece for their upcoming 35th Anniversary Celebration booklet. The Sorority is celebrating 35 years of providing positive interaction and support for members of our Community. I was Deeply Humbled and delightfully surprised by the invitation. I take pride in my literary and other “God-Given” skills and feel highly honored to be able to help when I can, particularly when my own Folk ask.
One of the leading reasons I applaud this Organization, besides their activism, is their consistent, continued support of Education in our community. There were many Fine teachers present in their midst over the years and this generation of Deltas continue to carry on that focused tradition. In fact, more than half of the Original Charter members were Teachers. So, I know my writing will be scrutinized to the fullest.
Among those original charter members were
- Wanda Dorm, who always offered a supportive comment and would, in her role as Guidance Counselor, advise you on how to make the system work for you instead of against you.
- Deb Ritter, one-time Math Department chair. One of our own “Hidden Figurers”.
- Julia Harris, who rose to become an assistant Superintendent. Dr. Harris was always a, firm but fair, advocate for all students, particularly those who felt they were not being heard.
The 12 Original members who founded this 724th Chapter in February of 1984 met at the home of then President Toni Gibson for the Chartering service which was conducted under the auspices of Regional Director Dorothy Stanley from New York. Those members included:
Alfreda Dorm, Alice Faye Kirkland, Toni Gibson, Pam Jordan, Genora Orr, Marcia Murray, Sharon Ritter, Wanda Dorm, Deb Ritter, Carmen Frost, Julia Hines-Harris and Brenda Elby.
Other teachers or educationally associated ladies involved over the years included Christine Bracey, and Mary Beatty, Betty Crenshaw, Gwen Rankin, Rozina Hensford, Wanda Brantley, Eloise Newsome, and Anna Breeland. Other members included Sylvia Anderson, Joan Chandler, DeLois Nichols and Genora Orr. Serena Barnes, Aretha Brown, Melanie Still, Magaret Ekles-Ray, Deborah Robinson,
Back in the early days the Sorority would sponsor, what in my opinion, was one of the Finest social events for Young Ladies this community has ever witnessed, the Peppermint Ball. It was somewhat like a coming out party for young Black Girls who had a desire to pursue excellence and success as a young adult. The Deltas used their experience and wisdom to help guide these young Ladies towards a path for Success by instilling in them a sense of Pride and Purpose.
In 1988 our Family was honored to have my daughter Valesha participate in this wonderful event. She eventually became Queen of the Peppermint Ball, as the event was called, and it made a very positive and motivating impact on her life.
The competitions between Families to have one of their own recognized as the Queen of this event was fierce but friendly, as each Family vied to have this honor bestowed on one of their own. It helped to build community Pride and Familial support for all involved.
I want to thank the Deltas for their vision, dedication and hard work in uplifting the Young ladies of our community and only wish the young ladies of today had more pathways available to help them See the Light. This event emphasized Cultural Competence and implored the young Ladies to “Be Best” long before the current First Lady coopted the term.
Their yearly Senior Recognition Programs in which the Sorority honored graduating Seniors with awards to help them on their continued educational journey was another of their effective community uplift initiatives.
In 1991 Yorker Judy Hunter was awarded the Fortitude award. This award was named for the Statue commissioned by the Sorority for the campus of Howard University, where the Sorority was founded. The statue was made of several types of metal which would eventually turn one color signifying the one people philosophy of the organization. The statue stands with her hands reaching back while pointing forward. This denotes that we must all reach back to bring our Brothers and Sisters along with us into the Future.
An original founder, Julia Harris said in a 1991 newspaper article that, the York Contingent broke off from their joint agreement with the Lancaster Chapter, which began in 1975 at Mr. Lacey’s Lounge in Marietta, Pa., to better focus on the numerous problems we faced here in York
In 1976 the Sorority began a “Teen Lift” program in which they “adopted” Marian Calhoun and Adele Breeland in a pledge of support for their college careers.
In 1984 the Chapter began an Adopt a Business program whose purpose was to support the fledging African American business which had begun to grow here in York. The first two businesses adopted were “Brother Johns” Grocerette owned by John Jamison on Pershing Avenue and “Just for Us Cosmetics” owned by Edith Watkins on South George Street. The Sorority had recognized the importance of Black owned Businesses to our success.
In September of 1984 the Sorority sponsored the Betty Crenshaw Memorial Fashion Show in honored of one of their fallen Sisters
Julia Harris’s 1990 letter to the editor in Defense of her Sorority sister Genora Orr was indicative of the Strong Sorer bonds that existed in this Chapter. Genora, who was known for her Strong, some say radical, approach to fighting injustice, was undergoing some heavy criticism at the time. In her letter Mrs. Harris applauded Genora for carrying on the strong tradition of public service that was a principle of the Sorority.
In May of 1996 under then president Pam Jordan, the Sorority led a coalition of groups in a campaign and March against teen Pregnancy
In April of 1997 they honored 16 women including my Mother as Women Who Have Made a Difference in the York Community.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This organization of dedicated Women has led the way in cultivating and perpetuating the culture and traditions of our People.
The Cultural significance of those events and the overall importance of handing down culture and traditions should not be lost on those who fret at the troubling decline in the mores and values we see in our communities. Through Cultural events like these, we are able to water and preserve the roots of our illustrious History to provide a roadmap for the next generations to help them chart their way forward. Thank you, Ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 35 Years is a significant commitment and you have built a Steller record of Service to our community. We appreciate you and applaud your courage and commitment.
Founder, the York African American Historical Preservation Society
Center for the Study of African American History
The Community Chorus
The Community Chorus originated as the Gospel Male Chorus in 1928 under the leadership of Mr. Emmanuel Washington and David Sexton. It has also been known as the Zion Boys Quartet, the Sextette and the Zion Male Chorus. In 1939 the all-male chorus decided to enlarge the group by adding female members and renaming the group the Community Chorus. The first meeting of that group was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Heirs, 470 Codorus Street where the following officers were elected; President, Mrs. Leah Hopewell, vice-president, Mrs. Pearl Keenheel Secretary, Mrs. Rosabell Colston. Treasurer, Mr. David Orr and Director, Emmanuel Washington. Rehearsals were held at the home of Rev. Frederick Lusan pastor of the Zion A.M.E. Church until it was decided that a larger meeting place would be necessary. Mr. Washington then secured the music room of the Crispus Attucks Community center for rehearsals. The members of the Chorus at that time included; Pianist, Miss Naomi Washington, sopranos, Ms. Bertha Nicks, Mrs. Ruby Ritter, Mrs. Rosa Bell Colston, Mrs. Alberta Washington, Mrs. Mabel Washington, Mrs. Rosanna Dowery, and Mrs. Mittie Grimes. Altos, Mrs. Johnnie Mae Scott, Mrs. Vera Holman Mrs. Pearl Keenheel, Mrs. Octavia Muldrow and Mrs. Rosa Jenkins. Tenors, Herbert Scott, Charles Washington, Willis Murray, Norman Washington, and David Sexton. Basses, Earl Ritter, Robert Scott and David Muldrow. Other members included; Mrs. Virgie Johnson, Mrs. Victoria Smith, Mrs. Emily Dagins, Mrs. Rebecca Freeland, Mrs. Rebecca Preston, Mrs. Ruth Redman, Mrs. Florine Moore, Mrs. Mabel Grimes, Ms. Margaret Bailey Ms. Grace Bailey, Mrs. Johnny Carter, Joe Washington, Norman Washington and William Felton.
The Chorus became a featured attraction at many community events. In 1948 at a meeting of the York City Council the Chorus sang a rousing rendition of a song entitled “Jim Crow Must Go” in response to the closing of the community swimming pool at Farquhar Park. Rather than admitting Negroes the pool had been closed by the city for almost 3 years.
Mr. Charles Washington, was born in Bamberg South Carolina the son of a Music teacher. His family was closely associated with music while in the South. After coming to York, Pa. he studied music under the late professor Dennis. He became a member of Zion A.M.E. Church where he joined the choir, Zion’s Quartet and the Gospel Male Choir. In later years he joined Bethlehem Baptist Church. He became director of the Community Chorus after his Brother Emmanuel, the previous director and a founder had died.
The Chorus became the first Black Chorus to appear Live on WSBA Radio on Sunday afternoons in the mid-forties. Mr. Washington became director and manager of the famous Jewel-tones Gospel Singers, a group of dedicated persons who came from various churches in York. The Jewel-tones traveled over many parts of the East coast appearing on Radio & Television programs. Through his work with various singing groups throughout York Mr. Washington taught many people to sing and play instruments even though they had no musical background. He was married to the lovely Alberta Washington and they had six children……Mr. Charles Washington another of York City’s African American Icons.
The Princess Players
Over the years we have had Sooo much Culture in this city…… whether it was individuals or the many talented families……whether it was Singers and Musicians, Artists, Actors, Poets or Playwrights…….York has seen its share……It’s past time for a Renaissance…..time to restart the Culture because as the liner notes on Donald Byrd’s classic album Ethiopian Knights says….It the Culture that Carries us through the Trying times we as a people have faced…….Its the Culture that connects us to what we really are…..and its the Culture that shows us what we shall be………Last week I highlighted the fantastic Miss Fine Brown Frame contest which allowed many of our young ladies to showcase their Beauty & Talent and from the comments I’ve heard many of the Ladies involved benefited immensely from those experiences……This week I will showcase the Fabulous Princess Players…..many of whom were great Thespians in their own right……First up Ms. Margaret Scott & Ms. Betty Johnson among others who starred in the Princess Players Production of Happy Ending…….other cast members included Anthony Grimes and Richard Kinard
Princess Players production of Purlie….starring James Colston & Joseph Carter………
Princess Players present “To Be Young, Gifted & BLACK”………starring Lee Smallwood, Maude Kent, Betty Johnson & Connie Wilson ……another wonderful production…..
Here we have the Beautiful Nadine “Pinky” Williams one of the Stars of the Princess Players production of “West Side Story”……….
Princess Player Production of “Us and Others” starring the Beautiful & Talented Joyce Hawkins…..also playing in this production were Betty Johnson & Albert “Bumper” Harrison……
Mrs. Ida Grayson – York’s Green Book Connection
Mrs. Ida (Smith) Grayson was another prestigious member of York’s Black community in the early 1900’s. Mrs. Grayson has recently become notable for her relativity to the highly rated new movie “The Green Book”. Mrs. Grayson operated a boarding home in the early 1900’s named The Charlotte Hotel, located at 32 West Princess Street. This Boarding House was listed in several editions of the Green Book. The Green Book was a booklet much like what AAA would put out to advise travelers on this decision or that, relative to traveling. The significant thing about the Green Book was that it was a lifesaving booklet for African American travelers. It advised them on which locations were safe or not for Negroes, as we were called during that era.
Mrs. Grayson was born in 1884, the Daughter of Mr. & Mrs. James & Adell A. Smith. She came to York with her family in 1893, from Norristown, Md. It is not a surprise that Mrs. Grayson’s establishment was listed as a safe haven for Negro travelers and others of that time. Her entire life was dedicated to uplifting and building her community. She was prominent in many local and state Negro organizations. Mrs. Grayson was a Charter member of the Phyllis Wheatley Literary Club. She was a founder of the Emergency Girls Club and the Entre Nous Art club. Mrs. Grayson was a member and District organizer for the Pennsylvania State Federation of Colored Women’s club.
Mrs. Grayson was highly active in the Faith Presbyterian Church, a small but powerful and influential Black church whose members had broken off from the Historic First Presbyterian church. She served as a member, trustee and Sunday School teacher. The churches focus and mission was the uplift of York’s Black community. Other famous, faithful and influential members of that church included Dr. George Bowles and the Rev. Thomas Montouth, two of the founders of the Crispus Attucks Center.
The 2001 book “How Women Saved the City” by Daphne Spain, mentioned Mrs. Grayson’s Home for Girls, which her Grandson Byron told me was on West College Avenue
Illustration of 1956 Green Book
In April of 1934 Mrs. Grayson gave a major talk to the Women’s Missionary Society of Grace Lutheran church. Mrs. Grayson’s talk was on on Race Relations and Building a Better World. It was met with much praise and high emotions. Mrs. Grayson quoted from Dr. W.E.B. DuBois writing the Object of Segregation. She called the Negro problem in America the ‘greatest handicap’ to building a better world. She said “indifference and prejudice breeds ignorance. She opined that perhaps the churchwomen were not informed on the topic and so asked them to answer certain questions definitively and courageously. Do you judge the whole Negro Race by your experience with the Negro who works for you? Do you have any friends among the Negro race? Do you ever read books or magazines written by Negroes about Negroes? Do you realize the Negro is being given a Raw deal by the New deal? Do you know anything about the housing conditions of Negroes in your town? Is segregation practiced in the schools, churches, restaurants and other public places that you frequent? And what if anything are you doing to alleviate or eradicate these conditions? She closed the talk by requesting the women to plead with those they associate with to treat the Negro as worthy citizens.
Her son Charles graduated from Millersville State Teachers College and Howard University in Washington D.C. known as the Black Harvard. Eventually he received a Masters Degree in Education from Penn State. Charles went on to a distinguished career as a school teacher and administrator. He taught and was acting Principal of the Smallwood School, one of York’s two segregated schools at the time. After schools desegregated as a result of the Brown versus the Board of Topeka, Kansas, he became an administrator with the York City School District. In 1953, While still a Principal at Smallwood School, Charles was appointed by Governor John S. Fine as the first African American Alderman in York.
Mr. Grayson, like his Mother Ida, was very aware of the problems facing the Negro in this community and the country. And like his Mother he was not afraid to speak out against injustice. In 1950 he gave a speech at the Small Memorial A.M.E Zion church underscoring the need for change. Grayson challenged America by saying, “ Unless American capitalism narrows the wide gap between the conditions of the Negro today and the expectations of equality laid out by this country’s forefathers, the Negro will seek a solution to his problems in another system. Speaking on the persecution of Negro Icon Paul Robeson for his outspoken views, Grayson said, “Lift Paul Robeson’s comments out of the emotional context with which they have been surrounded and show me where his demands for complete spiritual, cultural and personal freedom is subversive”. Grayson went on to say, “Like the white man the Negro seeks Freedom and shares all the glorious hopes of the West”. “Today the Negro is rejected, the inhuman picture that whites carry in their minds, the continuous anti-Negro epithets on their lips, shut out the Negro as truly as if he were in a cage”. Grayson closed his talk by saying, “the members of both races must throw off their deep-rooted resistance to the presentation of the problem in all its hideous fullness if race relations are to be improved”. Mr. Grayson was speaking at the 27th annual banquet of the church’s trustees. He was introduced by Mr. Henry Hopewell, Principal of Smallwood School. Mrs. Joanna Harris was toastmistress and Rev. William Baker, pastor also spoke.
Mrs. Grayson died February 3, 1936 from a complication of diseases. Her funeral was held at Faith Presbyterian church with the Rev. Thomas Montouth presiding. Her interment was at the historic Mt. Pisgah cemetery in Wrightsville, Pa.
In May of 1945 businessman William C Smith, who died in 1940 left a bequest of money to the Martin Memorial Library to establish the Ida Smith Grayson Memorial Fund. The fund was to be used to purchase books and magazines featuring the development of the Colored Race written by members of the Colored Race