The Story of Beep and Huddy

Just a Housewife, That was Enough!

It’s hard to believe now but prior to the 1950s most women stayed home and took care of the house instead of going out to work.  A housewife like Bertha Coble Keller had more work at home than she could get around to.

Bertha was married to Harrison Keller, the co-owner of Keller and Heisey Stockyards on North Market Street along the Conoy Creek {the vacant lots behind Rita’s Italian Ice}.  She called him “Huddy” and he called her “Beep.”

Beep devoted her life to making sure Huddy always returned to a clean house when he walked up the street from the stockyards for his lunch and dinner.  Sometimes he was on the road picking up “hummies” (calves) in his “hummy truck,” usually in Clearfield County, so she didn’t have to make him a meal but other than that she cooked three meals a day.

They lived in the yellow brick Queen Anne-style house at 120 North Market Street.  Harrison’s two sisters, Ella and the reclusive Emma, lived next door, currently the Miller & Sekely Funeral Home.

Half of the Gothic Revival-style house on the other side of the Keller’s house was rented by the Gilbert Steever family.  The Steevers had moved from Philadelphia to Elizabethtown in the early 1930s because Mr. Steever worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service sorting mail and wanted to live in a small town close to the line.  The two Steever children, Gilbert and Margaret, soon became acquainted with their new neighbors.  Beep was their favorite because she was especially kind to them according to Margaret Steever Garber.

Margaret remembered Beep as a large woman but not heavy like Huddy.  Her usual attire was a plain housedress with an apron over it.  Margaret was never at the Keller’s house for breakfast but she recalled that lunch and dinner seemed to be similar as far as quantity.  Huddy rested in the parlor after lunch for an hour on a sofa chair before walking back down to the stockyard.

Margaret was about 6 years old when her family moved next door and she was immediately impressed by Beep’s large garden.  The garden had every kind of vegetable imaginable to the young girl.  There was even a big cold cellar in the middle of it where the potatoes, apples, turnips, and cabbages were kept over the winter.  Huddy ate fresh vegetables in the summer and canned vegetables from the garden during the winter.  If Beep needed a fresh vegetable she did not have, she called Beck, the green grocer located in the basement of the David Martin’s Store, and he delivered her order by truck.

Beep had additional deliveries from the egg lady, the milkman, and the baker.  Once she had the ingredients, she was ready to cook–from scratch.  If she made boiled chicken pot pie, she made the dough, rolled it out and then went out back to get the chicken.

At the back of the lot was a barn which housed cars and a chicken pen.  Gilbert and Margaret were fascinated by Beep’s skill in dispatching chickens.  In the yard, Beep chopped off their heads, dipped them in scalding water and pulled out their big feathers.  Then she took the carcass inside to gut and to give a final cleaning, searching the skin for little pin feathers.

When telling the children of her future plans, Beep always prefaced her comments by saying, “Honey, if I live till next year, I’m goin to….”  The kids would see some of her projects be completed.  In the back of the house was a huge kitchen with an additional out kitchen a few steps down.  There Beep made dried beef and bologna, which the kids got to taste.

Margaret loved it when she was invited to stay for lunch or dinner.  At four o’clock Beep started to peel, slice and cook potatoes in a skillet with grease.  “Those fried potatoes were the worlds best,” Margaret said.  Beep made her young guest feel special by putting her food in special little dishes.

Beeps generosity extended to the town hobos.  In the backyard beside her grape arbor was table and chair.  When a man knocked at her back door and asked for a handout, she directed him to sit there while she prepared him something to eat.

Harrison’s reclusive sister, Emma, gave music lessons.  Anna Needham took lessons from her but Emma never talked to Margaret.  The other sister, Ella, was friendly and showed Margaret flowers and told her what kind they were.  Ella even allowed her to watch when she made soap out back, but she didn’t compare to Beep.

Beep’s life was routine, filled with home-centered tasks.  She went to the Reformed Church on Sundays but other than that she was busy keeping her home spotless and her husband well fed.  Margaret has only pleasant memories of her time spent in Beep’s bustling but benign world.




Garber, Margaret Steever.  Interview in the summer of 2007 at Margaret’s house in Elizabethtown.

George Boggs: Memories of Elizabethtown from 1858

This article was written in 1933 for the Elizabethtown Chronicle. It details the town via the memories of one of its then oldest citizens, George Boggs. This memory, despite the title, now takes us back 159 years. We have left the article unedited, but have added numbers to it that correspond to locations mentioned on the map, to help the reader accommodate for changes since 1933. The map is from the 1864 Lancaster County Atlas, the closest map we have to George’s discussion of 1858 Elizabethtown.


By George D. Boggs – – November 17, 1933

George D. Boggs, one of Elizabethtown’s oldest citizens, writes the following for the Chronicle:

“Seventy-five years ago Elizabethtown was a borough of about 700 population. Looking back, I see many changes, some of which I will comment upon. On the west of South Market Street, below the residence of A.G. Heisey (1), there were but two houses, now occupied by Hershey’s grocery store (2) and the residence of David Martin (3). East of South Market, below the residence of Mr. Leicht (4), there was one house. On Bainbridge Street, one house and railroad station (5) and Mother Ross’ orchard and an immense hickory tree.

North Market Street, west side: The Old Bear Tavern (6), then used as a farm house, now owned and occupied by Dr. Vere Treichler, and the M.B. Keller residence (7). No other houses. East High Street; north side, above the Lutheran Church (Still there), four houses and the little United Brethren Church (8). On the east side, the Naille home, opposite the Lutheran Church, two houses, West High Street, no houses beyond Dr. Fearn’s (9). South side, no buildings beyond Stone Bridge (10). South Poplar Street was opened for two blocks, but no buildings. North Poplar, Park, Washington and other streets that are now opened and built up, was all farm land. Among the old residents, I find Peter Force, a shoemaker. I knew him well. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, and was powder-boy on Commander Perry’s ship on the battle of Lake Erie. He is buried in our own cemetery and his grave is decorated by the G.A.R. Col. A Greenawalt, a prominent landlord and land-owner, and an excellent entertainer. Travelers would come for miles to stop at the “Greenawalt House” to hear a good story of the old colonel’s. He would tell of George Washington, that a bullet was not made to kill him; at the battle of Brandywine a cannonball struck him on the breast, glanced off and caved in the gable-end of a Quaker meeting-house; George W. Boyer, jolly landlord of the Black Horse Hotel, whose laugh could be heard far and near. The Old Black Horse Hotel, an old log house with little crooked windows, stood where the garage and residence now is, South Market Street, next to the present Black Horse Hotel (11). Amos Harmony, the good friend of all children. All the boys and girls would go to Uncle Amos and his good wife for sweet apples, and to the Wealand farm (12) (now owned by Benjamin Lehn) for cherries. They had a long row of ox-heart, early red and black cherry trees along the lane. Joseph Clinton, a peculiar man, who had an acid tongue and knew how to use it. Dan May Shoemaker to whom the children would be sent for strap oil and would get it.

Joseph Strauss, a Jew, who was a good Christian when in his cups and a Jew when sober. There were many more old citizens who had their peculiarities, but all have passed to the great beyond.

The old Stone Arch bridge on West High Street, crossing the Conoy Creek was built in 1800. This I have from Esq. Byrod, long dead, aged 90. On the corner of the Square where the Horst building stands, was an old one-story shed-roof building which was occupied by a negro barber named George Harris, the only negro who resided here, and a German Shoemaker (13). He trusted everybod, never kept accounts, saying “they knew they owed him, why should he be worried with keeping books?”

There were public pumps, the old wooden kind, made of logs. On the sidewalks, viz., at the front of Black Horse Hotel (1), Engine House, Mrs. John C. Redsicker’s, Fletcher’s Corner Greenawalt Hotel (14), Horst’s corner, Fisher’s corner.

“Cows and pigs roamed the streets and alleys those days; immense flocks of wild pigeons flew over the town in autumn.

“Peter Shaeffer, a Revolutionary soldier, is buried in the Lutheran church-yard. The Redsecker family was one of the oldest residents of the town and were prominent in history. Mother Ross, a very aged lady, who was a Redsecker, told me I could look to the east and to the west of town as far as I could see and her father owned the land.

“The Fire company has an old hand fire engine. It was old when I came to town and must be much over one hundred years old now. The boys formed a fire company, we called it the “Hope Fire Company” and claimed the old engine was ours. I was Treasurer of the company and have still fifteen cents in the treasury.

“Note No. 1 – Speaking of wild pigeons, reminds me of old George Hein, who lived close to town. I knew him. On a Sunday, Hein went to shoot wild pigeons. He was a member of the Reformed church. The minister heard of his recollection and considered his duty to call Hein to account. He said to him, “I heard you were shooting pigeons on Sunday. Do you not know your duty was to be at Church?” Hein replied, Parson, when the pigeons are here you must shoot them or else they fly away; now the church is there and stays there and I can go at any time. How the matter ended I cannot say.”