Williamsport Days will honor former owner of Jeanne's Confectionery

August 25, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Jeanne House, proprietor of Jeanne's Confectionery, a popular diner for more than 50 years in downtown Williamsport, will be crowned as queen of Williamsport Days.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

WILLIAMSPORT -- The legend of Jeanne House reaches far beyond the boundary of Williamsport, where she spent more than five decades running Jeanne's Confectionery.

"Once we were at Disney World in Florida," recounted Jeanne's daughter, Marilynn Miller, 64, who was visiting her mother from Naples, Fla., "and this man came up to us and said 'Jeannie, who's making the steamers?'"

Miller and her mother, who's now 88, shared hardy laughs and anecdotes from the living room of her Williamsport home. Her shop was known for its fried chicken, steamers and regular customers.

"I was home when I was in my store," House said.

House was chosen to be the 2010 "Queen" for Williamsport Days, a four-day celebration that runs today through Sunday, Aug. 29. Town officials and festival organizers will honor House today during Williamsport Days' opening ceremonies at Byron Memorial Park.

Williamsport Days draws 10,000 attendees over the span of several days, said Jim Black, president of Williamsport Days committee. He said last year's event raised around $2,000. Other activities include a street dance, an ox roast, a 1950s-themed barn dance and a craft fair.


Jim Jewell, member of the Williamsport Days Committee, was the one who suggested House -- "Jeannie," as she's known to the locals -- to be this year's queen.

"Jeannie is an institution," Jewell said.

Black said picking House to be queen was a "no-brainer."

House opened Jeanne's Confectionery in 1946, though it earned its name "Jeanne's" in 1949. The shop was at the corner of Conococheague and Potomac streets, where Williamsport Creamery now stands.

House said she is still adjusting to the attention. "I don't like to be a show-off person," she said.

House was a working mom and entrepreneur, starting her business when her only child was 6 months old -- not typical for most women in the 1940s and '50s. At that time, women accounted for less than a third of the work force nationwide, according to U.S. Census data.

But House said she didn't think of herself as being revolutionary. She was a mom trying to make ends meet.

"I was just working," House said.

In 1999, House closed her business. She doesn't miss the hours -- getting up as early as 5 a.m. and ending the day at 11 or 12:30 at night. Her alarm clock, House said, was the telephone each morning from a police officer calling for his morning cup of coffee.

House said she misses the people.

"I liked what I did and I enjoyed my store," House said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Williamsport Days

WHERE: Most events are in or around Williamsport's Byron Memorial Park, off U.S. 11

WHEN: Today through Sunday, Aug. 29

COST: Most of the events are free. Proceeds will benefit Williamsport charities.

CONTACT: For more information, call Williamsport Town Hall at 301-223-7711 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Thursday, Aug. 26

3 to 6 p.m. -- Reception with Jeanne House, Byron Memorial Park community building

6 p.m. Opening events. Crowning of the "Queen" of Williamsport, Jeanne House. Performance by the Williamsport Community Band. Free admission and complimentary water.

Friday, Aug. 27

5 p.m. -- Ox roast, hosted by the Williamsport Lions Club at the Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84, 16129 Lappans Rd., Williamsport. $9.

6 to 9 p.m. -- Street dance, downtown Williamsport.

Saturday, Aug. 28

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- Craft vendors, Byron Memorial Park

6 p.m. -- Car cruise-in. $2, near Springfield Barn, 14 Springfield Lane, off U.S. 11

7 to 11 p.m. -- 1950s-themed dance, Springfield Farm Barn. $5.

Sunday, Aug. 20

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- Craft vendors, Byron Memorial Park

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