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No. 100 November 1, 2009 (Note to our online readers: Color photos, hyperlinks to referenced articles and updated stories are available in the e-mailed edition of this newsletter, distributed without charge. Our readers’ email addresses are never shared with anyone, for any purpose. The Mt. Gretna Newsletter has no political or commercial aims; its only goal is to inform, entertain and occasionally amuse its readers and an aging editor who enjoys keeping in touch with the world. . . and, especially, with Mt. Gretnans near and far.  To add your name to the subscriber list, send your request to:




Not much happens in November?

If there's anyplace in the U.S.A. where not much happens in November, some folks believe, it's Mt. Gretna.

The visitors are gone, the summer cottages mostly shuttered, and the tr
Fall surrenders its colorsees -- having reached their crescendo a week or so ago -- now quietly surrender their vibrancy and, like an artist taking down his easel, put away their colors for another season. Changes both perceptible and imperceptible slowly creep across the canvas that remains.
Among the subtle alterations is the inevitable procession of change in Mt. Gretna's commercial life. At two of the town's four restaurants, new owners are taking the helm but wisely retaining qualities that made them customer favorites (see story below).
Yet the most pleasurable changes alight with the delicate touch of nature's brush, transforming the landscape and filling the air with a freshness that even long-term residents find invigorating.

"I love breathing up here at this time of year," said Betty Miller, out raking leaves in front of the Playhouse the other day. "Don't you just love the smell of the trees and the log fires in the evenings?" she asks. No one has a more finely developed sense of Mt. Gretna's grandest pleasures.

Others, like Anna McDonald  -- who just moved to a home in  M
Anna McDonald photot. Gretna Heights in July -- find stunning beauty in the trees.
Taking a break from her work-at-home duties for a mathematical software company one afternoon in mid-October, she stopped along Route 117 to take photos like the one at right.  She, her boyfriend Luke and their "sturdy Cocker Spaniel" are discovering unexpected treasures, "truly enjoying life among the trees."

A place where not much happens in November? Hardly. Family traditions abound at this time of year.  At The Vireo, a cottage in the Chautauqua, friends and family have for generations gathered around an old dining room table that has become a kind of family history book. Each year at such gatherings, those assembled carve their names, initials and memories into the table. It's an essential part of each holiday meal, especially at Thanksgiving. At other cottages, some of which have been in the same family for longer than a century, similar traditions flourish, enriching the lives of all.

Yet catching onto the subtlety of Mt. Gretna's less obvious qualities often takes time. One man who bought a cottage in the Campmeeting several years ago and still commutes here from Bethlehem on weekends told us recently, "At first, I couldn't understand what you people saw in this place. Now, I understand."
Volunteer Betty Miller

Elsewhere, photographers capture scenes that amplify the pulsations that can exert a magnetic hold on passersby: In the Campmeeting (left), for instance, where a giant tree towers above its neighbors in a grand golden flurry.

Or in the Chautauqua (right), where berries sprouting outside a cottage window herald the arrival of fall and foreshadow the coming of winter.
A Distant Place
Some readers may have noted that this is our 100th issue in a chain of newsletters that began in January 2001. Since then, we've written a little over 350,000 words about goings on in Mt. Gretna.
Our grist is the news that most readers won't have already read elsewhere. A long time ago we decided that politics and other controversial stuff are better left to the public media -- newspapers, TV and, more recently, bloggers. Having concluded that there's already enough cacophony in the world, we've focused on news that uplifts, invigorates and celebrates those things that probably ought not be overlooked. Namely, the ingredients that could otherwise go unnoticed by anyone tempted -- even for the briefest moment -- to think that not much happens here in November.



Tonight! The Mt. Gretna Halloween Parade begins whirling, twisting and cavorting down Route 117. Spooks and demons side by side with princesseSuperPumpkins and pumpkins that walk, talk and dance. . . including SuperPumpkin (inset, right), the greatest of them all!
If you've never seen a Mt. Gretna Halloween Parade before, don't miss it. There's nothing like it anywhere from sea to sea.
The parade begins forming at the Jigger Shop at 6:30 tonight (Friday, Oct. 30) and officially begins at 7:00 p.m.  Nicole Roberts' Halloween Band, with musicians guided by the flamingo-hatted Max Hunsicker, is accompanied by fire engines, goblins and gremlins galore.                                              
(Dale Grundon photo, right)
Newcomers note: Those in the parade usually outnumber those watching the parade ten to one. But that doesn't diminish the fun, which continues at the fire hall where there's a cake walk, hot dogs, sodas and cookies in abundance for revelers of all ages.  Volunteer bakers note: More goodies are needed for tonight's revels. Please drop off your baked goods at the fire hall after 5:30 p.m.



Also in the news this month

Two of Mt. Gretna's
four restaurants are HideawaysignLeSorellesignchanging owners, but retaining their distinctive names, atmosphere and menu favorites.
At the Hideaway, restaurant veteran Allen Funck, who's lived along Horseshoe Trail Drive for the past 10 years, says he likes the things that have made the Hideaway popular and intends to keep them.
He also likes Mt. Gretna. "One of the biggest reasons I was interested in the Hideaway was because of where it's located. It's a unique area, one that I really enjoy," he says. His official takeover of the restaurant is expected before year-end.
At the historic Chautauqua Lodge, which operates as an art gallery, professional offices and Le Sorelle cafe, new owners Ken and Judy Shertzer, who have lived on nearby Northwood Drive since 1979, officially take over the restaurant's operation Nov. 1. They, too, expect to build on the best traditions, menus and qualities that have won customer loyalties. For now, they plan to retain the winter hours Fridays through Sundays. 
Ken, a plastics engineer for more than 30 years, says the restaurant business will be a "new challenge, but I love this community, cooking is my passion, and we're hoping to do well." The Shertzers have a son, now in college, and a married daughter who is a professional photographer.



Coming Saturday: an art studio tour that radiates from Mt. Gretna and sweeps across three counties. It's the 11th-annual self-guided driving tour with the works of 35 artists, potters, weavers, glassworkers, photographers and other artisans -- 11 of them in Mt. Gretna -- in a two-day exhibit at home studios and the lively La Ciga design center along Route 117.
Exhibiting artists in Mt. Gretna include, in the Campmeeting: Frederick Swarr, Elizabeth Stutzman and Madelaine Gray; in Timber Hills: Eva Stina Bender, Floss Russell and Shelby Applegate; and at La Cigale: Bob Terwilliger, Monica Baebler, Susan Afflerbach, Barb Fishman and Garrett Van Hoesen.
Also on Saturday: The 7th annual Mt. Gretna Fire Company Soup Cook-Off, from noon to 2 p.m. Sixteen of the area's super soup-makers will assemble at the fire hall, w
Pat and Dan Hottenstein: Big Chief and Sioux Chefith steaming crock pots filled to the brim, sampling cups and soups in tantalizing varieties that will test your ability to choose the three best of the bunch. All to the music of Mt. Gretna vocalist Scott Galbraith, who helps run South  Londonderry Township by day and, on nights and weekends, entertains audiences throughout Central Pennsylvania.
(Inset: Among 2008's top vote-getters: Sioux Chef Dan and Big Chief Pat Hottenstein of Timber Hills, with their New Mexican green chili and chicken soup)                                                       Dale Grundon Photo  
Your $10 admission fee goes to the fire company -- part of a "burn the mortgage" campaign that seeks to raise $400,000 and pay off the 2,300-sq.-ft. addition to house new engines and buy firefighting equipment.
Coming this Sunday, Nov. 1: Another of those popular fire company breakfasts where you st
Nothing beats a fire company breakfastuff a donation in the fireman's boot as you enter, then enjoy scrambled eggs, sausage, sliced potatoes, fruit, juices and coffee -- as much as you want -- all in the company of friends old and new.
The doors open at 8:00 a.m. Fire company volunteers will be serving til noon.


It may have been her undoing. Shortly after discovering that the glass door at the post office provides an almost perfect mirror for any girl wishing to A Distant Placesurreptitiously check her hair and makeup before the day begins, Dolly took to making daily trips across the busy highway as part of her morning ritual.

Doodle (below), who arrived in March -- three months before the enchanting Dolly had made her debut here -- always dutifully followed

It wasn't long, however, before breakfast patrons at the pizza shop began fretting about their safety amid the trucks, cars and motorcycles.
Waitress Rose Bair, who had tried valiantly to keep them on the north side of Route 117 with lures that included leftover pancakes and cheese curls (their favorite) has now reluctantly concluded that it's time to find them a home. Several nearby farms, offering a long and happy retirement, are among the possibilities.

Yet as the date approached for them to be gently coaxed into a cage and taken to a farm -- possibly as early as this weekend -- some melancholy notes were heard.
"He was fine until she came along," said Rose, sadly.
Scarcely looking up from his bowl of hot baked oatmeal, a breakfast customer replied, "Yes, I know. You can read all about it in Genesis."





It was enough to stop passersby in their tracks: A road crew where everyone had tools in hand, everyone was busy, and even the supervisor was helping to spread hot asphalt on a stretch of roadway along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Where, pray tell, had they come from?
Answer: Martins
A Distant PlaceLimestone in Ephrata, the same firm that resurfaced Route 117 from Colebrook to Cornwall last year -- finishing that five-mile job in record time, two weeks ahead of schedule.
Last month, they were here again -- patching a small area in Mt. Gretna Borough -- with the same brand of enthusiasm, verve and sense of urgency.
Before you could say lickety-split, they were done, packed up and outta here. Said an observer, wistfully: "No, I didn't think they were from PennDOT."

"It's better than joining a gym, going to Curves, or any of those things that a lot of people do," says Betty Miller, a volunteer who's helped keep the grounds surrounding the Playhouse in tip top shape for more than a d
Volunteer Betty Miller: Better than Curvesecade.
"The rewards are better for the body and the spirit," she says.
A retired kindergarten teacher, Betty has owned a cottage here for years.
She shows how to get the most out of helping out: "I love breathing up here at this time of year. Don't you just love the smell of the trees and the log fires in the evenings?
"I do love the hustle bustle of summer, but when it comes to an end, I love this peaceful time, looking at the beauty. And I don't care if it's wet or dry. I like rainy days, too. It's just gorgeous."
When she's not at her cottage, Betty's at Luther Acres, the Lititz retirement home where she and her late husband Barry moved nine years ago. "It's nice because I only have outdoor work in one place," she says. And she makes the most of it.

A Distant PlaceKathy DugdaleMost distant Euro style bumper sticker honors go to Kathy Dugdale, right, who helps keep the mail moving in Mt. Gretna.
Kathy's decal, from her grandfather's ancestral home in Jakubany, Republic of Slovakia, was given to her by a family friend in Philadelphia who recently returned from a visit to the central European town.
A Lebanon native whose parents were teachers in area public schools, Kathy spent 20 years with the Army, stationed in both Korea and Hawaii. She has been serving in the post office here since her retirement from the military and says that of all the places she's been, Mt. Gretna's best.



Bill Gifford's Oct. 25 Washington Post Book World
review of "The Big Burn: Teddy Bill GiffordRoosevelt and the Fire That Saved America" by Timothy Egan describes the fire that destroyed an area the size of Connecticut out West a century ago.
Concludes Bill, a Princeton Avenue resident: "As the West fills up with dead and dying trees, killed by beetles and blights brought by climate change, another Big Burn seems likely, if not inevitable."
A frequent Book World reviewer, Bill is an "adventure journalist covering anything on skis, wheels, dirt, road, dope, graft, hooves, paws, wings, fins, waves, cheese, red wine, high heels and wingtips." He is also editor at large of Men's Journal.


A Small Town's Global Swath

One of the delightful discoveries for anyone writing a community newsletter these days is, thanks to the Internet, its surprising reach.
And perhaps even more than most places its size, Mt. Gretna spins a web that attracts people around the world who enjoy reading about what goes on here.
Sometimes they're missionaries in Africa or India, or military folks on assignment in remote regions.
Other times, they're simply Mt. Gretnans on vaca
A Distant Placetion. Steve Gibble sent us a note the other day from the top of Obersalzberg, a mountaintop stretching 2,000 meters above Berchtesgaden in Germany, where he was catching up on the latest news from Mt. Gretna with his Blackberry.
Still others are folks who spent time in Mt. Gretna as youngsters and now live permanently in other countries.
Typical is the author Elizabeth Wein (right), a writer, housewife, mother and private pilot who grew up in Mt. Gretna Heights and now lives in Scotland.
Volunteer Betty Miller
Standing alongside a huge oak overlooking the banks of Lock Katrine near Glasgow, she and her children Sara and Mark watched as a century-old steamboat ferried visitors along the water
Volunteer Betty Millerway. Elizabeth spent much of her youth in Mt. Gretna Heights at the home of her grandmother, Betty Flocken, whom she still visits each summer.

Out in the French South Pacific is Sheryl Mellor, a translator whose parents (Jack and Evelyn Yocklovich of Maple Avenue) moved to the Heights when she was ten years old. Now a grandmother herself, she appears along the coast of New Caledonia with 9-month-old granddaughter Fiddih Hiwa.
When the newsletter is dispatched, usually around 3 a.m. Eastern Time, Sheryl receives it immediately (but late in the afternoon of the next day, her time) and says, "Nothing is better at the end of the work day than to read the news of what's going on back in Mt. Gretna."



In other news
"Night Senses, How Our Nighttime Senses Compare with Anim
Governor Dick Tower (Photo: Amy Spangler)als" That topic --  plus "Myth Busters: Bats Aren't Blind and More," a roaring bon fire, refreshments and fun -- are what's in store for those who walk (or take the shuttle) up the hill to the tower at Governor Dick Park's November Nocturne on Nov. 6. Bring a flashlight.
Walks and rides up the hill start at 6:30 p.m. The program at the tower begins at  7:00. A small fee and preregistration are required. Email or call 964-3808 for details. (Photo: Amy Spangler)


Conservationist of the Year honors for retired Mt. Gretna teacher Dick Brown, who lives along Mine Road. He founded the Environmental Advisory Council iDick Brownn South Londonderry Township, served as its chairman, and created bird trails and bird boxes throughout the area. 
His award came at the Lebanon Conservation District's 60th anniversary dinner a few weeks ago. Last April, he invited everyone in town to come out to his home for a "plant dig," sharing plants from his garden and his passion for gardening. His blog, "
Native Plant Action Network," appears online. One recent post: "Wildlife Watching: Getting Ready for Winter." holiday caroling event Dec. 13 will be sponsored by the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society, with open houses from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the society's Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters (next to the Playhouse) and the La Cigale design center on Route 117. 
Organizer Evelyn Koppel (964-3412 or
email) is looking for ideas, singers, and offers of help with refreshments or other duties. Carolers will stroll through town starting around 4:15 p.m. 



First scuba dive for Mt. Gretna triathlon director Chris Kaag.
What's unusual about that?
Chris, a
A Distant Place former Marine stricken by a rare neuromuscular disease more than 10 years ago, can't walk. But prompted by a visit to the Lebanon VA hospital, he opted to give scuba a try.
"I loved it and was very comfortable in the water. It was encouraging as well to see other disabled vets get in the water and do things they have never done," he says.
The triathlons Chris has organized at Mt. Gretna over the past six years have raised $160,000. That money goes to the Myelin Foundation, a research group investigating cures for diseases like the one that crippled him.
A Distant Place
His first scuba dive befits the mission of several groups he's founded, including
IM ABLE, which helps disabled people get moving despite their challenges.
"I'm a big proponent of not being disabled but rather enabling yourself to do more," he says.
He also runs a
physical fitness center in Reading, managed a triathlon in Lancaster in September, and somehow found time to get married this summer following his successful Mt. Gretna race last May.
Chris plans to stage next year's event in Mt. Gretna a week earlier than usual -- on May 22, before Memorial Day weekend. He thinks a change in the course route will lessen congestion for residents of Timber Hills and Conewago Hill.



Kevin PryNext up for the Winterites: Lebanon Valley College professor of English Kevin Pry discusses David Lindsay-Abaire's new play "Rabbit Hole" (currently finishing up a two-week run on the LVC campus) at the Winterites' Nov. 3 meeting, 1 p.m. at the Mt. Gretna fire hall. Details: Donna Kaplan, 964-2174. 



  She's a Mt. Gretna junior firefighter, the first ever to win the crown as LebanMt. Gretna Fire Company Queen Chelseaon County Firefighter Association's fire prevention queen. Chelsea Jenkins, 15, is  the stepdaughter of Mt. Gretna fire company chief engineer Mike Keller, one of 30 volunteer firefighters.
A high school sophomore, cheerleader, Future Farmers of America member and Hersheypark summer employee, Chelsea has also found time to complete the first three modules of an Essentials of Firefighting course, which she sees as stepping stones that will lead to becoming an emergency medical technician when she's 18.



Questions Readers Ask
[] Last month's feature on the root beer barrel, now relocated to a spot along the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail where it serves as a fund-raising center for the trail, spurred a reader to ask about the fate of Mollies, another familiar root beer landmark along Route 72 just north of the Turnpike. "It has been lingering, abandoned, for decades. One of these days, someone will acquire the property, and before we know it, the structure will be demolished," he wrote. Is anyone attempting to preserve this bit of local history that, for many Mt. Gretnans, holds such fond memories?

<> Warren Meiskey, whose mother still owns the building and sold homemade root beer, ice cream and other summer treats there for years with her late husband, says there are no plans to do anything other than preserve the building. "We are not planning to sell it or re-open for business," he says.
Mollies began ope
A Distant Placerating around 1925 and continued for nearly 70 years, says Mr. Meiskey, who lives nearby and runs a spring water dispensing facility at the site. He believes that Mollies closed sometime in the early 1990s. (A sign still hanging inside advertises "Banana Splits  $2.50.")
He also recalls early memories of Mt. Gretna, including the time he and his brother, accompanied by their mom, pedaled their tricycle all the way into Mt. Gretna to see his dad, then a repairman who was working on a balky juke box in town one day. "We rode from Mollies over the hill and down Route 117, since there wasn't much traffic in those days. He was sure surprised to see us," recalls Mr.Meiskey.                                        
(Photo: Ed Landis)



Claude Edward Benseman  (1922-2009)

Claude Benseman, who flew in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of World War II as a B-29 Superfortress pilot and was for 30 years a pilot for Delta Airlines, died Oct. 22 at the age of 87. He and his wife Geraldine divided time between their cottage in the Campmeeting and a home in Sarasota, Fla.
A native of Pottsville, Pa., he was an avid reader who enjoyed Civil War history, clock-making and fishing in the Florida Keys.
In Mt. Gretna, he was known to his friends as a gentleman, gracious host and devoted husband and father who earned the dedication and devotion shown to him in return by his wife "Geri."
He was a life member of Elks Lodge 1872 in Florida, the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Pottsville and the 58th Bomb Wing,  the unit called upon to take B-29s from the drawing board into combat against Japan, earning a reputation as one of the elite bombing units of the Second World War. For his heroism in personally dislodging a bomb stuck inside the bomb bay doors of his plane returning from a mission over Japan, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. It was a decoration this quiet and private man never talked about, disclosed only during his funeral at the Cornwall Manor Chapel here this week.



A Distant PlaceA Distant PlaceA Distant PlaceA Distant PlaceScenes From a Scrapbook:

Mt. Gretna has seven distinctive neighbor
A Distant Placehoods and most of them have welcoming signs to guide newcomers, truck delivery drivers and other visitors.  Timber Hills lacks a formal entry sign, but the one to its apartments at least gives newcomers a clue. Visitors seeking to find Stoberdale, however, often scratch their heads. It's the only Mt. Gretna community without any sign at its entrance.

With about 29 homes, Stoberdale traces its origins to around the turn
A Distant Place of the last century when attendees at a campmeeting assembly in Stoverdale, near Hummelstown, sought a site that would be more conducive to their worship practices.

An early newspaper account reports that they objected to the camp store selling cigars and newspapers on Sundays. So they packed up and moved to Mt. Gretna's Campmeeting, which they found a perfect place to begin "their days with sunrise services and continue with songfests, sermons and worship in the open-air tabernacle."

In the late 1920s, Jake Stober and his brothers John and Willie, established a restaurant that would ultimately become known as the Hideaway. Phil Stober, John's grandson, now divides his time between Manhattan and Mt. Gretna, where he and wife Barbara own a cottage. They enjoy pointing out to friends the family name on maps showing the location of their favorite getaway.


Editor's Note: We cordially invite readers to send their Mt. Gretna Scrapbook scenes throughout the year (in .jpg  format) to




A Tote-all answer for everyone on your gift list

It's a gift that everyone on your list who loves Mt. Gretna will treasure.
Volunteer Betty Miller
The Mt. Gretna Arts Council Tote Bag is perfect for all the treasures they'll carry next year -- from the grocery store, to family picnics, to the ball game and -- of course -- from the Mt. Gretna outdoor art show in August. . .  featuring an original design created by Timber Hills Studio's Art Clagett.

The cost: $5 each, with all proceeds going to help the Arts Council provide scholarships, artistic programs and those indispensable Summer Calendar of Events booklets.
(Available locally from any Arts Council member or at Penn Realty.)

Mail orders: Mt. Gretna Arts Council, P.O. Box 430, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.
Be sure to add $4.00 for postage and handling.