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NYC truck attack leaves tiny town of Mount Holly Springs in spotlight

Written by Mike Argento/The York Daily Record | Nov 2, 2017 7:22 AM
mount_holly_springs_barbershop.jpg

Daniel Hurley shaves customer Elwood Smith's head at his shop on the main drag of Mount Holly Springs. He wasn't surprised by the news that Sayfullo Saipov had been pulled over for failing a truck inspection, saying the borough police pull trucks over all the time. (Photo: Mike Argento, Daily Record)

The suspect had been cited by police in 2015.

(Mount Holly Springs) -- Nothing much happens in Mount Holly Springs. Nothing much has ever happened in Mount Holly Springs.  

"It's a quiet town," Bob Snyder, a 78-year-old retired tool and die maker, said as he ate breakfast at the Hi-Hat Café in the center of town, across the street from the Dollar General and a Sheetz convenience store in the town's commercial district, which also includes a Subway and Ugo convenience store. "I don't know if we have a claim to fame." 

Mount Holly Springs found a claim to fame, if only tangentially, when it was learned that the suspect in Tuesday's terrorist attack in New York, Sayfullo Saipov, had been pulled over on March 26, 2015, while driving a tractor-trailer through town and issued a citation for failing a routine truck inspection. 

At the time, nobody thought much of it. Police Chief Tom Day said the department - Day and corporal are the only full-time cops in town - issues "hundreds, if not thousands" of such tickets a year, as Route 34, which serves as the town's main drag, is a busy road, carrying a lot of truck traffic from warehouses in Cumberland County south to Route 15 and interstate highways beyond. The chief said the town clocks 15,000 vehicles a day through town. 

"There was nothing that would stand out," the chief said. "Unless something major stood out, no, we wouldn't remember it." 

Still, the news spread quickly through the town of fewer than 2,000 people, nestled at the foot of South Mountain in south-central Cumberland County, just north of the fruit orchards in northeastern Adams County, about 25 miles north of Gettysburg.   

It's a quaint town, mostly older homes lining the main street and the few side streets. Mountain Creek, a tributary to the Yellow Breeches, runs through the middle of town. Once, one old-timer recalled, there was a toll bridge over the creek at the south end of town that served as the gateway to the West in the 19th Century.  

"It's like Mayberry RFD," said Delores Wimer, proprietor, along with her husband, of the Stand Alone store, stocked with everything from furniture to oil lamps to swords and guns and dishes.  

This is what kind of town Mount Holly Springs is: Last May 7, Wimer's Papillion, a miniature spaniel named Lily Belle, went missing. Word spread, and people from all over town searched for Lily Belle. Neighbors sent over food. The dog was gone 11 days, found in an orchard in York Springs, six and a half miles away, a bit skinnier, but healthy. 

The town once had two paper mills nearby. One still operates, outside of town, manufacturing specialty paper. There's a plate glass factory and a Land-O-Lakes co-op. Other than that, there is not much industry or commerce.  

The town does boast that it is hometown to Sid Bream, former first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and one of the best libraries in the state, if not the country, the Amelia S. Givin Library, built in 1889 in a building that resembles a Moorish castle, complete with intricate Moorish fretwork.  

The town once had a public park - Mount Holly Park on the north side of town - that in the summer, would host country artists and other entertainers. Hank Williams played there, as did Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. The most notable act is commemorated on the wall of the Hi-Hat with a photo and an old newspaper clipping. 

Glenn Turley was a high school kid in 1947 when he was working the early morning shift at the now-defunct Gulf station. It was about 6:30 a.m., and he was sitting at the desk, dozing, with his feet propped up when someone entered, slapped his foot and asked whether he wanted to sell some gas. 

Turley told the newspaper reporter that he looked up and "saw one of the Three Stooges - the bald-headed one." 

The Stooges were on the way to the park for a performance. A passer-by snapped a photo of them standing in front of their car, Glenn behind them pumping gas. 

Glenn's widow, Jackie Turley, who, at 81, still works part-time as a hairdresser, said the Stooges gave her late husband a ticket to their show and a $5 tip. She said he recalled that their car had "a funny sounding horn." 

Until Saipov got stopped for traffic violations, that was about the biggest thing to have happened in town. And even then, Saipov's connection with Mount Holly Springs is ephemeral. He was merely driving through. 

And it wasn't surprising. 

"I believe it," Daniel Hurley, proprietor of Hurley's Salon and Barber Shop, said as he shaved a customer's head. "They always have trucks pulled over out there." 

Still, it was big news in town. Wimer said she first heard about it when a friend texted her at midnight about Mount Holly Springs' tangential role in the terror attack in New York. "It's downright scary," she said. "It's a different world out there. It's sad, very sad." 

Hurley put it this way: "Life's crazy. You just never know." 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.

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