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No. 101 December 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: mtgretnanews@gmail.com)

 

 

December's Gifts

On a recent Sunday afternoon, six of her many Mt. Gretna friends gathered around Jeanine Bitner at a table in the Hotel Hershey's grand Circular Dining Room. It was a reaffirmation of their friendships as well as a celebration of her birthday, one of several observances taking place these days for Mt. Gretnans who have seen the passage of more than 80 summers.
 
Others in that estimable category include Chautauqua resident Mary Hoffman, who on Dec. 22 will mark her 100th birthday, and Gladys Norton, of Conewago Hill, who a few weeks ago commemorated her 106th.
 
A hallmark of these gentle ladies born in an earlier era is the grace and dignity with which they conduct their lives. Always considerate. Always restrained. Always with high standards that they themselves never utter but that those in their company never fail to notice.  
 
Yet something more. These and other Mt. Gretna seniors who have earned the esteem of all who know them bestow rare gifts in this season of giving and, indeed, all through the year. They are gifts shared almost imperceptibly, yet with a resonance that lingers.

 
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulus In the letter that follows we chronicle some of the events taking place this month, celebrations of the season in ways that define Mt. Gretna and Mt. Gretnans.

They begin with the annual lighting of the community Christmas tree on Dec. 5th and continue throughout the month with carols, the arrival of Santa, a frolicsome tribute to old Belsnickle himself, and the quiet candlelight services Dec. 24 at Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church. And with them all, an appropriate exchange of greetings and expressions of gratitude that form the touchstones of lasting friendships.

 
But the real gifts are those embedded in Mt. Gretna's unique culture, passed on to us by those who have shaped its character over the years and now have come to the December of their lives. In a blog-eat-blog world of sometimes strident discord, theirs are the enduring gifts of a good example: civility, dignity and courtesy. And an amiable predisposition to focus upon the good things and the good people of Mt. Gretna that enhance the lives of us all. Such, indeed, are the gifts of December.

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Christmas in Mt. Gretna

The Winterites' meeting today (Dec. 1): A holiday covered dish luncheon featuring Christmas and Chanukkah foods and decorations, at the Mt. Gretna fire hall, starting at 1:00 p.m. All are welcome. Annual dues: $10.


Christmas Tree Lighting and carol singing: Saturday, Dec. 5 at the home of Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney, followed by carols, hot mulled cider and cookies, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., an Open House observance now in its 17th year. All in Mt. Gretna are invited. "We welcome long-time, as well as new, friends to join us," says the affable Mr. Hewitt. Location: at the intersection of Pinch Road, Princeton Avenue and Route 117, opposite the post office.

Santa arrives Saturday, Dec. 12  at the Mt. Gretna fire hall at 11:30 a.m. He'll be there
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulusfor two hours. Everyone is welcome. Youngsters of all ages will find food, favors and fun topped off by hot chocolate.
(Special notes: Please bring non-perishable food and toiletry items for the Lebanon Country Christian Ministries' food bank. Volunteer bakers, please drop off your baked goods early that morning.)
(Dale Grundon photo)

Christmas Scavenger Hike at Governor Dick Park Dec. 12, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Prizes go to those finding the most objects named in Clement C. Moore's "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." $2 fee.  Email the park for details.

Old Fashioned Holiday celebration and Open Houses, Sunday, Dec. 13 from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. at La Cigale (along Route 117) and the Mt. Gretna Historical Society (206 Pennsylvania Ave.)
Refreshments, craft-making, tours and (at La Cigale) visits with Mt. Gretna artists.  Followed by caroling throughout Mt. Gretna's neighborhoods, starting at the post office at 4:15 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. The festive afternoon ends with holiday treats and pictures with Santa at the Mt. Gretna Inn's fireside.

Belsnickel Night at theTimbers Dec. 17  with Tom ("The name's Leviticus, but you can call me LEE-WHY") Baum and Max Hunsicker: an Amish account of The Night Before Christmas. Unfamiliar with this classic? It begins: "Four cows and four steers, harnessed somehow, vere dragging behind them an old-fashioned plow. And there, chust behind it, sour as a pickle, Vas a fella ve knew had to be the Belsnickel." Starting, as Winter Stoltzfus officially begins, sometime after 7 p.m. by the fireside, downstairs. (Reservations highly recommended. Tel. 964-3601.)

Breakfast with Santa at Le Sorelle Cafe Dec. 19, from 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. includes a free photo with ol' St. Nick himself, says the restaurant's ebullient new owner, Ken Shertzer, who took over operations at the cafe, located along Chautauqua Drive, last month. Le Sorelle's winter hours: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. (Closed Dec. 25-27 and Jan. 1) .

Candlelight services Dec. 24 (7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.) Dec. 24 Mt. Gretna Unit
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulused Methodist Church, led by the church's new minister, the Rev. Michael S. Remel, who began serving the local congregation this past July. Currently completing master of divinity studies in Philadelphia, Pastor Remel is among 100 ministers profiled in the book "Answering the Call." He formerly served at two small churches in southern Lancaster County and won widespread acclaim for his compassionate message of forgiveness at funeral services for the Amish school gunman at Nickel Mines in 2006.
The Mt. Gretna church, at Fourth and Boehm streets in the Campmeeting, holds regular worship services Sundays at 8:30 and 10:00 and is actively seeking new members.

New Year's Eve "close-to-home" party at Timbers with a $22.95 buffet dinner beginning at 7:00 p.m., accompanied by the piano artistry of Andy Roberts and continuing until 1:00 a.m. with after d
inner party tunes by Mr. Roberts, Scott Galbraith, Bart Briody, Max Hunsinker and other popular local artists performing as "Galbraith, Briody and Friends." All amid festive decorations of the season at The Timbers Restaurant. Limited menu service also available that evening. Reservations: 964-3601.

A pork & sauer kraut dinner on New Year's Day? You'll find it at the Mt. Gretna Pizzeria. Waitress Rose Bair says she'll be serving breakfast that day, too, starting at 7:00 a.m.
They'll be closed Christmas but open Dec. 24 and 26. Looking ahead to Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 7:  "You bet we'll be open," says Rose. Now in its fourth year, the popular pizza shop, headed by Damien Orea and his dad Elidio -- two guys whose sheer persistence and gritty determination have won customer admiration and loyalty through desolate winters -- is open Mondays 11:00 a.m. til 8:00 p.m. and Wednesdays-Sundays 7:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Tel. 964-1853.

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It's a Kathy Snavelyquirky oddity that on most nights during a typical summer, only about 5 to 8 percent of the Playhouse audience is made up of people who actually live in Mt. Gretna.

Maybe that's the way it should be. Welcoming others to share Mt. Gretna experience is part of a long-held tradition, rooted in the Pennsylvania Chautauqua's founding 117 years ago.

And to be sure, making visitors feel welcome is what drives the Playhouse's enthusiastic volunteer corps -- people who do everything from helping patrons find their seats to filling their cups with spritzers at the refreshment stand.

Last season, despite an economy that set many cultural enterprises on their ear, Gretna Theatre, Gretna Music and The Cicada Festival welcomed those visitors and emerged intact. In some cases, even better than before the season began.

Gretna Theater saw its audiences grow some 26% over the previous season to nearly 17,500, an astonishing accomplishment given the collapse of many cultural enterprises elsewhere in the country, including some close to home. The Cicada Festival, offering $11 tickets to its five midsummer shows, sold all but 100 of its 3500 seats. And Gretna Music, hampered by unfavorable weather for some concerts and a continued decline in support for jazz concerts that have been part of its repertoire for over 30 years, came within 14% of matching its 2008 totals.

In an uncertain economy, that momentum augurs well. Going into its winter season at Elizabethtown College, Gretna Music seems headed toward new records. Half of its concerts are already sellouts, and tickets are going fast for others scheduled early next year. (See item below).

Yet despite encouraging signs, pulling off last season's successes wasn't easy. Gretna Theatre's operating budget now tops $600,000, only about half of which is covered by ticket sales. The rest comes from a combination of direct patron donations
Kathy Snavely, foundation and corporate support (including sponsorships) and an annual gala.

Gretna Music trimmed operating costs for its 2009 concerts at the Playhouse to $219,000, with ticket revenues covering roughly 50% of those expenses. So it, too, must depend on private contributions, grants and corporate gifts as well as the Mt. Gretna House Tour and other fund-raising events.

Only the Cicada Festival, which runs with an all-volunteer staff, covers most of its annual costs ($33,0000 this year) with ticket sales. Whatever donations it receives goes into funding expanded offerings the following year, such as the Thursday matinee in 2010 and a headliner act that should be announced soon.
 
All three groups encourage patrons to get their 2010 ticket orders in early. "Don't wait for the brochure," says Gretna Music's Michael Murray. "Get on our e-mail list to know what's coming, check into the Gretna Music page on Facebook, or check our website." Similar advice comes from Gretna Theatre's Larry Frenock and Cicada's Ceylon Leitzel. 

And those 5 percent of residents who actually buy tickets? They win plaudits from others in Mt. Gretna who don't always get to plays and concerts but understand full well a basic reality: Culture is a key to Mt. Gretna's intrinsic value, and the Playhouse is a hub around which many of those cultural endeavors spin.  

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They're baaaaaaaack

 

. . . but in erratic fashion this year.  Some days they arrive in droves. Other days they're scarcely noticeable in the skies over Mt. Gretna. Nobody seems to be able to divine a pattern in their unpredictable behavior.

Mt. Gretna's turkey vultures returned last month, just as they have every November for the past quarter century. Overall, however, their numbers are down from a peak of 600 or so a few years ago, thanks to unrelenting efforts by a small group of volunteers in a  community-wide campaign led by Max Hunsicker.

But the birds have remarkably long lives (sometimes up to 25 years) and equally long memories. They tend to return to the places they knew and loved as youngsters.

So what's the problem? From their treetop roosts, turkey vulture droppings can damage or kill trees and other vegetation as well as harm automobile paint, rooftops and electrical transmission towers.  So as they have been doing since 2001,local patrols are again this year fanning out across town just before dusk to shoo the birds away. Especially from neighborhoods where homes are closely grouped together under dense stands of pine trees. 


Over the past decade, Mt. Gretna's vulture patrol has achieved greater success than bird relocation campaigns attempted elsewhere, USDA officials report. But the key is to keep at it, lest these uncommonly persistent creatures resume old habits and return to familiar roosts to raise yet another generation of birds with honing instincts attuned to the glide slope leading into Mt. Gretna.

Volunteers use a variety of methods to scare the birds away, including flares, high-powered spotlights and aerial bursts,  which disrupt roosting patterns just as they attempt to settle in at dusk. Once perched in their nighttime roosts, turkey vultures are difficult to dislodge.

Coordinator Max Hunsicker advises his team of volunteers that "the best time to scare the turkey vultures is 45 minutes before dark."  But, he cautions, "always weigh the noise nuisance vs. the buzzard nuisance." He also points out that "Vultures that remain overnight do the most damage since they don't move after dark."

Mr. Hunsicker says the campaign can use additional volunteers, since some  of the original team members have retired or moved away. To help in the coordinated effort to drive the vultures to harmless roosts out of town with a minimum of disturbance to residents, send an email to: MHunsicker@comcast.net.

 

The bird that made Mt. Gretna famous: An Ash Throated Flycatcher, spotted by Mt. Gretna Bird Club members Sid Hostetter and Randy Miller on one of their regular Friday morning treks two weeks ago. It was the fourth such sighting in Pennsylvania history.  The Bird that Made Mt. Gretna Famous
"This bird has really put Mt. Gretna on the map," says club member Evelyn Koppel. "On any given day you can see a half dozen folks with binoculars and giant camera lenses viewing the bird. One man who came from Pittsburgh to see the bird fed him grasshoppers."
Noted bird photographers and other luminaries from the bird-watching world are ambling into town, to a site just west of the state
In search of the flycatcher game lands' dirt parking lot along Pinch Road, opposite the Governor Dick Park Nature Center.         
The Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology sent a team out to verify the sighting and take photos for an upcoming issue of Pennsylvania Birds magazine.        
(Photos: Sid Hostetter, left; Bob Snyder, right)
Ms. Koppel says the rare bird is, for the moment, staying in one place, which helps visitors find it. Once cold weather begins to set in, however, he (or she -- a minor mystery yet unraveled) will likely head toward Mexico or Central America.
The Mt. Gretna Bird Club meets Friday mornings at 9:00 outside the Nature Center. They travel to popular bird-watching sites in the area, then often wind up their outings with coffee and conversation at Le Sorelle. To join them, call 964-3412 or email: mtgretnabirdclub@hotmail.com.

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Officials attempting to straighten out the thorny problem of a disputed overpayment made by Lebanon's Earned Income Tax Bureau to Mt. Gretna Borough suggest a 20-year payback period, the Lebanon Daily News reported.
Some Borough residents are challenging the validity of a claimed $200,000 overpayment during the period from 2004 to 2007.

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Speaking of writing checks, here are a couple of guys who hope you'll include the Mt. Gretna firefighters in your year-end donations. The fire company has launched the largest fund-raising drive in its history: $400,000 to wipe out the debt on its expanded new building aFor fire company fund raisers, the search for $400,000nd pay for firefighting equipment they'll soon need.First line of defense
Campaign chairman Tom Mayer, left, and fire company president Joe Shay continue to meet weekly on a campaign they hope will "burn the mortgage" and buy new equipment as older fire engines must be replaced.
Want to join the fire company's Wall of Honor with a five-year annual pledge (in amounts of $500, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000)? Send donations to: Mt. Gretna Fire Company, P. O. Box 177, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Tom Mayer has details (964-1987; or e-mail tcmtao@aol.com).

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Also in the news . . .

Mt. Gretnans, who love a good soup as much as a good soiree, turned out in record numbers last month for the seventh annual soup cook-off in a rousing affirmation of Ludwig van Beethoven's sprightly observation that "Only the pure in heart can make a good soup."

Pure hearts and hearty appetites were manifest at the seventh annual soupfest on November's opening weekend. About 130 soup-tasters bought tickets to qualify as judges, satisfying their taste buds and, in the process, adding another $1,000 or so to the Mt. Gretna fire company's crucial 'burn the mortgage" campaign.

In what has become one of the most convivial community-wide celebrations of the year, most of the winners, surprisingly, turned out to be Mt. Gretnans, or at least folks who live close enough to walk to Mt. Gretna's post office.  Previous years' winners have sometimes been out-of-towners, making the rounds at cook-offs throughout Central Pennsylvania in search of fame, medals and ever-ascending levels of culinary distinction.
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulus
This year's winner in both the "best-tasting" and "most unusual" categories was Mt. Gretna architect William Barlow (inset, left), whose entry bl
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulusended a hint of pumpkin in a hearty chicken soup called "Pumpkin Doodle Do." His winning concoction honored the elusive Bantam Cock that since March has roamed through town, evading captors and waking townsfolk in the wee hours of the morning.
Mr. Barlow, dressed in a black robe which hinted somberly that Doodle had already joined the ranks of the dearly departed, collected top honors. Yet even as officials  draped medals around the souperchef, a recalcitrant rooster, barely 500 yards away, strutted his stuff, still very much alive -- kicking and crowing -- having once again outsmarted those who have sought to round him up.

Runner-ups in a tightly contested "best-tasting" division were Harvard
Sharon WarfelAvenue's Nick and Deidre Sweet (inset, above right), whose Caribbean Black Bean soup proved a hit with the judges, all of whom had forked over their $10 to Best Presentation Jean Ditzlertaste, talk and tally their ballots.
From nearby Horseshoe Trail, Sharon Warfel (inset, right) came with her Ruben Chowder to take third place honors in the taste category.
Winning "best presentation" honors (inset, left) was Mt. Gretnan Jean Ditzler's Cream of Ruben entry.          
Other Mt. Gretna area contestants included Esther Mefferd of Timber Road, Lake View Drive resident Bob Hertzler, John "Noodles" Noulet of the Chautauqua, Conewago Hill Drive resident Laura Feather and friend Rose Ann Battista, Eleanor Sarabia with grandson Joey Mann, former Brown Avenue resident Jeanie Bachland, and Gretna Springs' Maxine and Harry Strother.
                                                                                                                        (Photos lower left and right: Dale Grundon)

 

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Governor Dick Park will be closed to visitors Dec. 2-5 for the special limited deer hunt (restricted to 100 hunters with special permits whose names were drawn in a lottery earlier this year).
After opt
Closed signing to skip a special hunt last year, officials conducted density studies this spring and turned up the surprising finding that 32 deer per acre are now roaming the 1,105-acre forest, a population that forestry officials say is unhealthy for both deer and vegetation.
No one is sure what caused the sudden deer surge. Measurement studies have remain unchanged over the past four or five years. One theory is that the population of coyotes, a natural deer predator, has dropped sharply.
Park officials cautioned hikers, bikers and horseback riders to stay out of the forest throughout the four-day hunt.  Although the park's Nature Center officially closed Nov. 30, some winter activities will continue outdoors. See the park newsletter for details.

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Ghost towns aren't necessarily those abandoned places where people no longer live, tumbleweeds roll across empty streets, and shutters bang "against the vacant sockets of dark windows."
In the words of writer Jennifer Veser Besse, a fourth-generation Mt. Gretnan who about 18 months ago returned
Jennifer Besse to live here permanently, ghost towns can be any town that is a shadow of its former self. Like, for instance, Mt. Gretna, which once had 10,000 soldiers, a sight-seeing train that ran up the mountain, and  two grand hotels.
That, in fact, is the essence of her latest essay, "Living in a Ghost Town," which placed as first runner up last month in the 2009 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition in New Orleans, where her writings have won honors every year since she began competing there in 2003.
Writing comes naturally to this Timber Hills resident, whose parents and grandparents both owned year-round cottages in the Chautauqua. Her uncle, Jack Brubaker, is also an author and writes "The Scribbler," a popular Lancaster newspapers column. She herself is now in the midst of a novel, set in St. Thomas, which she considers "the warm twin of Mt. Gretna" and one of her two favorite spots in the world.  
"Even at a young age I knew that Mt. Gretna was different and that it would make me different," she writes. "There's something enchanting about living in close proximity to the abandoned past."  

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Stimulus money? What stimulus money? When they want to get something accomplished, those get-it-done guys from TStimulus money? What stimulus money?imberbridge don't wait on help to arrive from Washington, D.C.
On a crisp Saturday morning last month, they rolled up their sleeves, rolled out the rocks and created a scenic corridor along Alpen Drive -- a little-used, tranquil roadway that links their community on the western perimeter of Mt. Gretna to Lakeview Drive in Conewago Hill, where the grand five-story Conewago Hotel once overlooked the lake. Mainly, these days, the corridor serves as a walkway for area residents and as the entrance road to Alpen Drive's solitary home.
But that
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulus doesn't mean it's not important.
So the Timberbridge chapter of "Men with Rakes," which springs into action whenever duty calls, spread, raked and steamrollered stones into a smooth-surfaced roadway (inset, right) that would make PennDOT envious.

The project took only two hours, thanks to volunteers that included Cade Metzger, 7; Sadie, 7, and Keara Lillenstein, 2; Campbell, 5, and Beau Toler, 2; and Isaac Woessner, 6, who helped their dads finish the job. Another star: Alpen Drive's Elisabeth Boyd, who came with the hot coffee.

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On the question, "Who's smarter, chickens or primates?" the oddsmakers are shifting their bets in favor of roosters. That's because, thanks to the Internet, Doodle's fame is growing as the fowl-you-can't-lay-a-finger-on.
So far
Doodle may be lonely, but he's smarthe's outsmarted a team from the SPCA, Mt. Gretna fire department's finest, and now would-be captors who claim that, with a mysterious whistle that freezes chickens in their tracks, they can stupefy runaway birds much in the way that Paul Hogan faced down a charging water buffalo in "Crocodile Dundee." 
Knowledgeable farmers say they've heard such things are possible. Maybe so, but first you've got to find the bird.
Every time anybody shows up with a cage and a hook, however, Doodle disappears. 
Mt. Gretna Bird Club members meanwhile are waiting to be called in for their prosaic solution: a conventional trap that will safely ensnare Doodle for the brief, if unceremonious, trip to a nearby farm where his erstwhile mate Dolly (inset, right) awaits.
Kathy Snavely
Capturing her was easy. She eagerly hopped into the passenger seat of a pickup truck and enjoyed the ride to a spot where, for the past few weeks, she's been reveling in her new role as resident, retiree, and lady of leisure. Meanwhile, Doodle remains at large, roaming in the wilderness. Sometimes, it seems, women really do know best.

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 Sightings

Alpen Drive . . . after stimulusPianist, composer, arranger and. . . fiddler? Yes, that's Timbers' Dinner Theater music director Andy Roberts (inset, left), the Lebanon Valley College adjunct professor and assistant music director of the American Music Theater. He's one of a dozen or so  talented musicians who amble over to La Cigale, next to the miniature golf course, on Monday evenings for what's become a relaxing, entertaining, and enjoyable -- not to mention free -- musical experiences available anywhere.

Yes, fiddlers, banjo strummers, harmonica aficionados, guitarists and mandolinists assemble to play whatever their hearts dictate, with spur-of-the-moment inspirations for their own enjoyment and whoever happens to stop by.

On a couple of Monday nights last month, Kay Mitchell showed up. Now Kay Arcuragi and living in MississippiAlpen Drive . . . after stimulus, she was one of the first performers to step onto the Timbers stage back in the '70s. In the words of harmonica artist Bart Briody (insert, center), she was, hands down, the "best singer the dinner theater ever had."
Back again and singing along with the group, "I'll Fly Away," she and others delighted in a session intended primarily for their own enjoyment but also one thoroughly delighting listeners who stopped by the La Cigale design center. 

What's behind it all? Pure pleasure for artists and audiences, every Monday from 6:00 p.m. until around 9:00 p.m.
The idea's an inspiration not just from the talented Dale Dourte, but also from La Cigale owner John Mitchell, who thinks Mt. Gretna could become a venue for street performances of all types. The bluegrass sessions, which started outside this summer and have now moved inside his building, are going strong -- winning praise, plaudits and plenty of mountain music converts.


The curious thing about living in Mt. Gretna is why people who live here would want to pay good money to travel to distant places for a change of scenery. Stick arouYesteryear? Not exactlynd town, and interesting sights come to you.

The photo at right, for example, looks as if it could have come from the archives of Mt. Gretna's historical society. In fact, it was simply Peter Hawryluk, (inset, below) who runs an automotive shop "on the other side of the mountain."
He stopped by to drop off mail at the M
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulust. Gretna post office one afternoon last month in his four-cylinder 1930 Ford. Now with 43,000 original miles, the vintage auto was once owned by his late sister.
Mr. Hawryluk lives in Denver and says the car is "a lot of fun to drive," gets 17 miles per gallon, and is good for curing what ails you. "It steers hard," he says. "If I didn't drive it, my arthritis would kill me." And the hat? "No special reason. It just feels comfortable."

A day or so later, on an Indian Summer Sunday morning, Jim Good pulled up alongside the Jigger Shop, now closed for the season. A retired salesman for J.C. Penny, Mr. Good, 67, spends his days volunteering at St. Anne's
Alpen Drive . . . after stimulusRetirement Home in Lancaster -- where he delivers birthday cards, runs eAlpen Drive . . . after stimulusrands and serves as a driver for residents five mornings a week.
On weekends, the cheerful bachelor puts a big stuffed bear in the passenger seat of his sports car, dresses him up in whatever costume the season dictates, and drives around "having a ball," startling adults and delighting children.
He especially likes to show up with his costumed bear, driving nonchalantly around places like the Park City shopping mall on Black Friday, as shoppers line up around 4 a.m.

And if you're thinking you can only see exotic fowl by scooting off on safaris, think again. Icky, also known as Ichabod Crane, awaits you just down the street, near the former ice dam along Route 117.
He's become perhaps the most-photographed Sandhill Crane on the East Coast. That's because he doesn't belong on the East Coast. He's clearly off his flight p
Sometimes, a guy just gets confusedath and far, far away from a potential mate. But he doesn't seem to know that. In fact, he's attracted such attention that he probably doesn't even know he's lonely.
Sandhill Cranes are supposed to hang out in the Midwestern U.S., according to the bird experts. Their sightings in the East are rare, but not unheard of. Mt. Gretna's bird club is keeping an eye on Icky and will help wildlife officials assure that he's protected if he decides to winter over in the area.
Meanwhile, Susan Afflerbach, a wildlife painter who lives in nearby Spring Hill Acres, found him out wading one sunny day near the rail trail, so calm that visitors could almost reach out and touch him. She took about 150 photos in a single afternoon session.
Soon afterward, noted wildlife photographer Barry L. Runk, of Grant Heilman Photography, caught Icky in a contemplative mood (above, left) -- puzzling, perhaps, over exactly where he took a wrong turn.  
(Inset photos: above right: Susan Afflerbach, left: Barry Runk)

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Wu Man, Chinese pipa virtuosoGretna Music's Elizabethtown winter concerts are selling out fast. So if you want to catch Wu Man's solo pipa concert Feb. 14, don't wait to order your tickets. Never heard of her? Here's a PBS interview that'll convince you this is one not to be missed. And coming up Mar. 19, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
Meanwhile, although the Raleigh Ringers (Dec. 6) and Vienna Boys Choir (Dec. 17) are already sold out, you can call (361-1508) to add your name to the waiting list in case tickets to those concerts become available.

 

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Matt and Kerry Royer, the Campmeeting couple who just published a children's book based on Mrs. Royer's bAuthor and Illustratoredtime stories to her children about the adventures of their stuffed animals, say "Nightbear & Lambie" enjoyed a successful opening night release party at the Hall of Philosophy recently.
They're now signing autographed copies and following up on marketing activities at places like Resource Island in Cleona (operated by Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington), Rhoads Pharmacy in Hummelstown, Education Station in Lancaster and the nationwide chain of Pottery Barn Kids stores.
Illustrated by Mr. Royer, who is an attorney, the book also is available online at www.nightbearandlambie.com. Mrs. Royer, who wrote the narrative, encourages local residents to stop by their cottage, 507 Seventh St. in the Campmeeting, email or call 964-1320 to pick up a signed copy. "It makes a great gift for little ones," she says. 

 

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Campmeeting president Jeffrey Hurst, The Hershey Company's senior food scientist, continues to star in detective stories that have their origins in ancient Mayan society.

Dr. Hurst's reDr. Hurst, chocolate sleuthcent analysis of After 1,300 years, still a yen for chocolate1,300-year-old artifacts discovered more than a century ago --  and delicate enough to crumble at the slightest touch -- found they once held theobromine and caffeine, proving that the chocolate-loving Mayans were not much different from us, concludes the Philadelphia Inquirer

A Mayan exhibit, "Painted Metaphors," continues through Jan. 31 at the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 Gretna Theatre's first holiday production in nearly 20 years, "The Littlest Angel," appearsThe Littlest Angel in a dinner theater offering at DiMatteo Center, Lebanon Valley Brethren Home Dec. 17-20. It's an "angel of a play," headlines the Lebanon Daily News, " based on a 1970s television production about a young angel's transformation from "celestial pest to the toast of heaven."  Dinner and show tickets (and some show-only tickets) are available for evening and matinee performances. Call Gretna Theatre: 964-3627. Online ticketing not available.

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"Weathered Beauty. . . Glimpses of France and Italy" by Mt. Gretna photographer Madelaine Gray is The Gallery at Lebanon Picture Frame and Fine Seeing past the razzle-dazzle of tourist sitesArt exhibit for December. Ms. Gray will be there for an artist's reception Dec. 4, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.Photographer Madelaine Gray
"My photographs express the desires of my heart: what I want in my life and what I value most. I find that photography is a way to learn about life," she says in a statement posted on her website.
Washington, D.C. art critic Nancy Ungar, reviewing a similar exhibit of her work in Gaithersburg, Md., said that Ms. Gray "sees past the razzle-dazzle of tourist sites and sentiment," seeking out the simplicity of  European villages with a view that displays their "history in nicks, cracks and layers of paint."
The gallery is next to Niko's Restaurant, on the third floor of the Lebanon Farmers Market, 31 S. 8th St.

Mt. Gretna photographer Glenn Acker's
works appear at a Lebanon exhibit t
GlennGlenn Acker photo at Dec 4-5 Exhibithis month, at Queso Dee'as Restaurant, 708  Cumberland Street.
At right, one of the prints from Mr. Acker's collection, a scene he came upon in Istanbul, Turkey: a woman making flat bread. His exhibit is part of the increasingly popular "First Friday Art Walk," an event held the first Friday of each month from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. in downtown Lebanon.

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Luckiest voters in Mt. Gretna? They're the Campmeeting and Mt. Gretna Heights Election Day Hospitalityresidents whose polling place is the Quentin fire hall, where Peggy Whitman, 73 (inset, right) bakes -- from scratch -- cookies, angel food cake and other election day treaIn Quentin, pastries and soups reign supremets for those who stop by to cast their ballots.
Mrs. Whitman, who has lived in Quentin since she was 10 years old and is an election day official, wins the 'best polling place treats' award from the Mt. Gretna Newsletter election day judges.
Runner up: Those wizards at the Lawn fire company, where Patsy Kline, (inset, left) oversees voting booth operations for Mt. Gretna voters living in Timber Hills, Conewago Hill and Timberbridge. (Mrs. Kline, who plays the mandolin, is also a regular at those Monday night Bluegrass sessions at the La Cigale center in Mt. Gretna. See item below.) Her talented bakers put out a veritable smorgasbord  -- with some treats offered for sale to benefit Lawn fire and ambulance teams. They also roll out a tempting array of hot barbecue sandwiches, cheeses, dips and finger foods for hungry voters. What the ladies of Lawn are most famous for, however, are their soups -- which they sell by the gallons, attracting customers from throughout South Central Pennsylvania.

 

Questions Readers Ask

[] There's a lot of activity at the lake these days, including a new
Ash Throated Flycatcherstructure that suddenlWhat's New at the Lake?y popped up in front of the beach and earth-moving equipment moving dirt along the parking area. What's going on?

<> No, that new framed structure alongside the beach is not -- contrary to several rumors swirling about in recent weeks -- the first of a bevy of air-conditioned rental cabanas being installed to lure the upscale beachcomber crowd. 
Instead, it'll simply replace a 12' x 12' tent that's been on the same spot for several years and used to house first aid and lifeguard equipment.
                                                       
(Photo above left and below right: Ed Landis)
As for the earth-moving activity in the lake's parking area last month, that's part of a water management project designed to control and contain storm water runoff.
A newly installed underground conduit will more efficiently divert water into a swale that South Londonderry Township installed some 15 years ago to keep storm water out of the lake and direct it into a nearby stream.

[] What about all those unused canoes that the Chautauqua had removed from the lake in 2008? How many remain unclaimed, and what's going to happen to them?
Whose canoes
<> About 17 of the canoes that were removed to the Mt. Gretna Borough storage shed now, nearly two years later, remain unclaimed. What's to become of them? That's up to the Chautauqua's 17-member board, which will likely decide their fate at this month's board meeting.
Borough officials issued about 60 permits in 2009 for canoes now using the newly installed racks on the lake's southern edge. At last count, 49 were were still there -- all with their properly affiexed permits -- following the summer season. Just how many were actually used at the lake this past summer? No one's sure, but they do add colorful touches for artists and photographers.    

 

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Have a speaker to suggest for Chautauqua's University for a Day program next July? NeedKathy Snavely food tips from Chef on the Go Becky Briody? What health topic would you like to learn about? Which local authors would you like to hear speak in Mt. Gretna next summer?
Summer program coordinator Kathy Snavely wants to hear your ideas. She and her committee also seek suggestions to celebrate the Hall of Philosophy's 100th birthday. Drop her a note.

 

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Diane "DeeDee" Eckert Bretz (1965-2009)

The most radiant lights often burn out all too soon. Yet the warmth of their glow lingers long after they are extinguished. Such was the life, and legacy, of a woman known
Dianeand loved by many in Mt. Gretna, where her parents chose to make their home and where she herself added to the town's luster. 
"DeeDee" Bretz illuminated many paths as a daughter, wife, mother, realtor, office manager and friend. Born in Hershey on a day in February 43 years ago, she died on a Friday before Thanksgiving, a day that touched permanently the hearts of all who had known her.
She was a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, a member of Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church where she had been a Sunday school teacher, a den mother and a past president of the Parent-Teacher's group at Cornwall Elementary.
She leaves behind a husband and two children, a brother and two sisters, and her parents, David and Darlene Eckert of Valley Road, who have given so much to so many and now can count on their support and friendship in return.
Hundreds of people, perhaps as many as 500, turned out for a Celebration of Life reception held at the Timbers on Sunday, Nov.29. Contributions in lieu of flowers are being accepted by the Bretz Family Fund, c/o Kreamer Funeral Home, 618 E. Main St., Annville, PA 17003.

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The Gift of Mt.Gretna History:


 A DVD with 140 photos and music chronicling the 1885 to 1935 stoA DVD to sharery of the Pennsylvania National Guard's Mt.Gretna encampment is now available. 
Created by Jim Seltzer, the DVD is on sale for $10 at the
Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society's headquarters, 206 Pennsylvania Ave. (Please add $2 if ordering by mail).

Also on sale: the recently republished pamphlet, "Mt. Gretna Narrow Gauge Railroad, 1889-1915" by Jack Bitner: $6.95, or two for $11.00 (Mail orders: please add $2.00). Mt Gretna History CD

AND: Jack Bitner's two-set DVDs on Mt. Gretna and the Narrow Gauge Railroad, $25.00 , or two for $48.00. (Add $4.00 for mail orders.)

The Society's headquarters is open Saturdays Dec. 4, 13 and 19 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Send mail orders to: Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society, P. O. Box 362, Mt. Gretna PA17064.
A Coleman Legacy
Ask to be notified when Jack Bitner's "Mount Gretna: A Coleman Legacy" is reprinted (expected sometime in 2010), or call Fred Buch toll free: 1-800-242-3901 to add your name to the notification mailing list.
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A Tote-all answer for
your entire 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. . .  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 Mt. Gretna's outdoor art show. Original design created by Timber Hills Studio's Art Clagett.

The cost: $5 each. All proceeds go to help the Arts Council provide scholarships, artistic programs and that absolutely indispensable Summer Calendar of Events.
(Available locally from any Arts Council member and 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.

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