The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Gretna, Pa. . . . "Not a place, but a spirit" - Marlin Seiders (1927-2006)
March 1, 2010
Snow doubt about it, spring's right
around the corner, says Ichabod, the optimist; Photo by by Elizabeth Wein
A Mt. Gretna that summer visitors never
To be sure, this the snowiest of winters in recent memory is also
turning out to be one of the most picturesque. So we open this issue by
sharing glimpses sent by readers with an eye for winter's exquisite gifts
-- glimpses of a Mt. Gretna unknown to those who come only in summer.
Above, Icabod the solitary sandhill crane who should have spent the
winter down South, scans the horizon for a sign, any sign, of
spring. Although his internal guidance system may have been a little
wonky this year, his unscheduled landing near the Mt. Gretna ice dam
brought unexpected benefits. With hundreds of naturalists, hikers and
shutterbugs trekking to see him, he's become something of a star
attraction -- indeed, perhaps the most photographed bird in Pennsylvania.
Author Elizabeth Wein, who now lives in Scotland, caught this photo of
him just as the sun was setting in mid-February during a visit with Betty
Flocken, her grandmother, with whom she had grown up in Mt. Gretna
Setting out with her children one afternoon to search
for Ichabod, she says
they "slogged through two feet of snow for a mile and a half HOPING we would see him, and he was
right there! We wondered how he'd handle the snow. The answer is that he
walks on top of it."
Elizabeth, who writes historical novels for children, added, "There were four geese with
him, and when the crane noticed us, he took off over the trees on the far
side of the dam -- the geese all followed close behind him like
At right, an ethereal photograph taken in Mt. Gretna's Campmeeting by
professional photographer Madelaine Gray, who normally spends much of her time in places like
the lavender fields of Provence in France.
But this year she found herself savoring the pleasures of a Mt. Gretna
winter. And when the biggest storm of the season struck last month, she
quickly put down her steaming hot chocolate, grabbed her Nikon, and
Before long, she came upon this backlit scene of falling and blowing snow
on Second Street, at right. "I was happy with how this turned
out," she says.
Above, right: Second Street in the snow.
And Judy Bojko, a retired nurse who moved to Mt. Gretna from
Detroit when she was 12 and then returned with husband Vic to live here
permanently "as soon as the opportunity presented itself,"
captured this glimpse (left) of snow-trimmed trees glistening in
the sun along Bell Avenue, in the Campmeeting.
Recognize her name? It was Judy who also submitted the dazzling photo of a snow-encircled Lake Conewago,
which led off our January issue and attracted more comments from readers
than any picture we've ever run.
"Winter can be such a beautiful time of year here, and no matter how
many snows we get, I always want to capture the beauty on film.
"Mt. Gretna is every child's playground and adult's paradise,"
Left: Snow-trimmed trees dazzling in the sun along Bell Avenue, Judy
In other news
Snow or no snow, all signs
will lead to the fire hall March 7 for another of those bountiful breakfast buffets created by Station 38
volunteers. Regardless of the weather, they'll be waiting with hot food
in this all-you-can-eat extravaganza for a donation of whatever you care
to stuff in a fireman's boot at the entrance door.
What you'll find are scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, sliced potatoes,
sometimes quiche and pancakes too, together with fresh fruit salad (a
surprising favorite --"it always disappears first," says
volunteer Karen Lynch), juices and coffee -- as much as you want -- all
in the company of friends old and new.
Our firefighters are sure you'll leave with fond memories as well as a
full tummy. What they hope you'll leave behind are
contributions to help make a dent in that $400,000 campaign to "burn
the mortgage" and build up reserves to pay for new equipment that
will replace aging fire engines nearing the end of their useful days.
No, it's not all profit. But those $20s, $50s and sometimes $100 bills
left in the boot can make a big difference.
If you'll be out of town and unable to drop in, there's another way to
help: Mail your gift to Mt. Gretna Fire Company, P.O. Box 177, Mt.
Gretna, PA 17064.
Gretna Music's March 19 Concert Coup:
a Jump on Carnegie Hall
When it comes to exuberance, few announcements come close to matching
Gretna Music's unbridled enthusiasm for this winter's Benefit Gala.
What that signals, one may be sure, is a ticket scarcity as the date for
this performance nears on March 19, a full day ahead of the same Orpheus
Chamber Orchestra's appearance, with the same cello virtuoso Alisa
Weilerstein, in Carnegie Hall.
"Without exaggeration," begins the press release, "it is
sure to be the most exciting night in Gretna Music's history." The
Elizabethtown event carries an added attraction: a pre-concert gala with
drinks and dinner at the President's House on the
Elizabethtown College campus, preceding the 7:30 p.m. performance.
It's a gathering for which the combined energies of Gretna Music's board,
staff and an eager band of zealous volunteers are making a full court
press to assure a sell-out. With that intensity, prospective ticket
buyers (for the pre-concert dinner, the musical performance itself, or
both) are advised to act early. (Left:
Orpheus' Carnegie Hall ad.)
The size and scope of the event make this one of the most costly concerts
Gretna Music has ever presented -- a gamble that, if it pays off, will
lift revenues just when the celebrated concert series needs it most, a
much-needed shot in the arm before its 2010 summer season begins.
In addition to the pre-concert gala at the home of Elizabethtown College
president and Mrs. Theodore Long, the occasion is likely to be equally
memorable from a musical standpoint.
Orpheus, whose players are keenly attuned to one another, occupies a
unique perch in the musical world. Its musicians neither need nor want a
conductor to lead them, even with a challenging program that includes
Stravinsky's Apollon Musagète, Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo
Theme, Beethoven's Rondino as well as selections from his The Creatures
of Prometheus. Joining them will be Ms. Weilerstein, whom Gretna Music's
executive director Michael Murray calls "the most exciting cellist
since Yo-Yo Ma."
Tickets for the gala, the
concert, or both are on sale now online or by phone, 717-361-1508.
With a lineup like this, procrastination is not a recommended strategy.
Especially since the price of a ticket in New York for the same group the
following night will likely make this bargain-priced event in
Elizabethtown memorable for yet another reason.
Why we name our cottages:
Where the heart is
What is it about Mt. Gretna that inspires us to give names to our homes
Although it's a common practice in the British countryside (where sturdy
names like "Halcyon," "Foxes Manor" and "Hanniby
End" often appear), few towns in America indulge in this happy
tradition. Except Mt. Gretna, where we delight in devising names that
often amuse, advise and sometimes tease with inspirations such as
"Wit's End," "Uneeda Rest," "Dew Drop Inn"
More than half of the homes and cottages on Mt. Gretna's annual tour of homes over the past two decades have names
given them by present or former owners
Writer Jennifer Veser-Besse, who grew up here, suggests that "we
name things to which we attribute human characteristics." She
recently returned to live in Timber Hills and believes we give our homes
names either "because we love them, or because we are frustrated by
traits that make them both lovable and frustrating, just like people."
Indeed, we sometimes christen our cottages with the names of women
("Eliza Mae," "Mary Lee," or "Elizabeth")
and occasionally, but less often, with the names of men or boys ("My
Three Sons," "Clay's Cottage," and, simply, "A
Cottage Named Bob").
Mt. Gretna cottage names also evoke cherished memories. "The
Hahnemanian," a cottage in the Campmeeting, has been in Lois
Hopkins' family for 118 years and bears the name of a Philadelphia
hospital where her grandfather completed his medical studies. For
Chautauquan Kathy Pietsch, "Dreamcatcher" embraces her dreams
as a child growing up at her grandparents' cottage "Jo-Ann" in
the Campmeeting, where her brother Ben Wiley now lives.
Other cottages yield pearls of unsolicited
advice: "Quitturbelliaken" in Mt. Gretna Heights drew its name
from a sign the original owner once spotted in a bakery shop. His
daughters, Arlene Lentz and Anna Kathryn Klatt, both now retired
educators, still come here every summer. Arlene says that however
much the name amused their father, her mother didn't like it. So he
compromised: On its opposite side, seen only by those sitting on the
porch, he painted a sign with their mother Ida's first name blended in,
Sometimes, what we call our cottages reflects a state of mind. Patty
Gokey' favorites include "Thistle Dew," which trumpeted Ron and Joyce Fink's decision to
finally stop renovating and start enjoying their Lafayette Avenue
cottage, and "Happy Ours," along Pennsylvania Avenue, which
Harold and Connie Stauffer chose after enjoying a classical music concert
at the Playhouse.
Jennifer Veser-Besse knows a lot about Mt. Gretna cottages. Her father,
builder Jim Veser, remodeled many of them and helped her develop an
appreciation for "how quirky they can be, inside and out," she
"People love Mt. Gretna and the cottages that shelter them."
Giving them certain human qualities may help soften misgivings "when
a floor sags, pipes leak, or the whole house needs to be rewired. Cottages are like our family members and
friends,"says Jennifer. "It's important to call them by their
After she and Bob purchased their Princeton Avenue Cottage, Linda Wilson
immediately changed its name from "Zembo" to
"Wayside," but not because she was unaccustomed to odd names. For
18 years her family had rented a cottage quizzically called
"IDRO," which her brother surmised was the sole option
available to one left with only an oar.
How do cottages get their names? Sometimes with name-the-cottage
parties like the one that produced "At Ease" at Joe and Laura
Feather's gathering a few years ago to honor Joe's new life as an Air
Force colonel in retirement. And as they sipped Cuban lime-and-rum
cocktails at a party during his bachelor years, Brad Kleinfelter's
friends branded his Campmeeting cottage "Mojito Nights."
Cottages also often reflect family names. Tom and Janice Dunlevy's
"Dunhaven," for example, Susan and David Woods' "Woods in
the Woods" or Tom and Elaine Baum's "The Baum Shelter."
So why do we name our cottages? When you get right down to it,
they are a part of us. And names we give our cottages and homes probably
come close to touching the essence of Mt. Gretna itself.
Why Sally's Coming Back:
A 6th Show to Ignite the Season
So with five productions already set for 2010, why did Gretna Theatre opt
to add a little rocket fuel to launch the season with "Nunsense,"
a sixth show?
For one thing, producing artistic director Larry Frenock was able to line
up for the starring role "All in the Family" star Sally
Struthers, one of the top-grossing Playhouse performers ever (when she
was here in 2001 for "Always Patsy Cline").
For another, Larry discovered that his old friend Dan Goggin, creator of
"Nunsense," the second-longest-running off-Broadway show, would
not only bring in the cast of his upcoming New York revival, but that he
would also come with the national touring sets, costumes and props at no
That made the decision almost a slam dunk for Larry and his board. The
show is a proven performer, both artistically and financially. And that
combination, plus Sally, almost guarantees a successful start for Gretna
Theatre's 2010 season.
As for Ms. Struthers, she was the star that Larry had already picked,
even before he learned of Goggin's plans to bring the show back to New
York's Cherry Lane Theater, where it all began in 1985 -- 5,000
productions ago. In fact, Goggin will be opening in New York after the
Mt. Gretna performances without Ms. Struthers. But he liked Larry's
choice for the Mother Superior role, which Ms. Struthers has played many
times as part of Goggin's national tour company.
So it looks like a good start for Gretna Theatre, which even now is up to
its ears in casting calls for the new season. Recent Straw Hat auditions
in New York attracted 900 actors, which Larry and casting director
Christian Saint-Girard evaluated over three jam-packed 9:00 a.m. to 11:00
p.m. days, taking only half-hour breaks for meals. Then came reviews of
150 local actors trying out at the Mt. Gretna fire hall last month, and
waiting next are some 1,900 applicants for audition appointments this
month, including Tony Award nominees and even a soap opera star.
Although "Nunsense" means bringing in a "big name,"
the shows to follow will be more costly to produce, says Larry. They
include "Will Rogers Follies, "Peter Pan" and
"Mame" -- each requiring multiple sets and upwards of 30 cast
"It's exhausting," says Larry. "Out of all this, we
plan to hire some 60 to 65 actors over the course of the season. Sheesh,
it makes your head spin."
The nation's glimpse of
"Mt. Gretna" last month
It wasn't exactly what Andy
Warhol would have called "15 minutes of fame," but this is the
view of "Mt. Gretna" that newspaper readers across the country
saw last month when the Associated Press picked up Harrisburg Patriot
News photographer Chris Knight's picture of snowplows along the
Pennsylvania Turnpike, near Lancaster/Lebanon Exit 266. The photo, with a
Mt. Gretna, Pa. dateline, ran in hundreds of newspapers covering the
story of the biggest snowstorm to hit the East Coast in years.
Patriot News: Chris Knight.
Meanwhile, here's the real
Mt. Gretna. . . Few customers, the mail truck's in a snowbank, but
Cathy's already at the P.O.
Cathy Dugdale, digging out her
little blue Chevy Cavalier on the snowiest Saturday of the year (Feb. 6)
to get to the Mt. Gretna post office -- even though (a) the mail truck
ran into a ditch somewhere east of Campbelltown, (b) only about five
people stopped in the whole day, and (c) she had to shovel her way
through the snow to get mail that people had deposited overnight in that
blue outdoor mailbox along Rte. 117.
"I'd have to be a sissy to go on about that," says Cathy, who
drove in from her home near Quentin Road. "The lady who runs the
post office in Lawn had to walk four miles to get to work."
All of which goes to prove, once again, that in small town America, by
gum, the mail will get through, no matter what.
How's Doodle doing?
Serendipitously, thanks to next-door-neighbor Penny, the Penn Realty
groundhog. While Penny keeps Doodle's roost filled with feed, realtor Peggy Seibert reports that the recalcitrant
rooster -- who last fall evaded would-be captors bent on spiriting him off to a barnyard retirement -- is
eating, crowing and greeting porch visitors along Route 117 with gusto.
And if cluckers could croon, she'd swear the refrain she hears from
Doodle these days sounds a lot like "I did it my way," à la
20 Seats left on that
"take-a-spring break-you-deserve-it" New York City trip that
Rhoda Long plans for April 24. The 48-passenger bus is now filling up, and Rhoda figures
that a spring day in New York is "the best way to end the winter
It's a day-on-your-own, do-what-you-like trip that leaves Mt. Gretna at
7:30 a.m. and departs New York City at 7:30 p.m. The cost: $45, with
proceeds going to the Mt. Gretna fire company. For details, click here to email Rhoda or call 717-304-0248.
30% Shortage of census workers in Mt. Gretna and
vicinity says local coordinator Joe Lamont. The part-time, temporary positions pay $13.25 an
hour plus 50 cents a mile, with flexible schedules of up to 40 hours per
week. To qualify, call 1-866-861-2010.
1,000 Pictures and 23 summers of memories now
attracting Mt. Gretnans throughout the world to a Facebook page posted by Dottie
Together with their four children and many Mt. Gretna friends, she and
husband Skip ran the Hideaway Tavern and Restaurant from 1966 to 1988, with Dottie taking
photos of their regular customers throughout the years.
The idea to assemble those pictures -- including framed photos that
appeared on the Hideaway wall, plus assorted others that never quite made
it into frames -- came from daughter Patty Reichenbach, who lives nearby.
"It's like reading a picture book of Mt. Gretna history," she
Who are those early Hideaway patrons shown in
this collection (one of more than 30 appearing on the Web)? Patty
Reichenbach enlisted the help of Mayor Joe Shay (pictured with a beard,
second from left in the bottom row) in identifying the photos. Top row,
from left: Jenny Buck, Cameron Buck, and the Briody twins (Becky and
Rachel). Middle row: Gary Schaeffer, Karen Lynch, Pat McLaughlin, John
Sullivan and Mike O'Donnell. Third row: Pat McDonald, Joe Shay, Mark
Shope and someone that nobody has yet been able to identify.
Cicada Volunteers' Strategy for 2010 Success:
New Website, Old Favorites & Bargain Tickets
Despite an all-star lineup, $11 tickets, and a string of sell-outs last
year, Mt. Gretna's Cicada Festival is not taking any
chances in 2010. They're in the hunt for audiences to fill the Playhouse
again this summer with top performers from past decades, a new website, and the launch of a
first-ever weekday matinee Aug. 12 for The Grassroots, above,
who'll also repeat their performance that night. Add into the mix Phil
Dirt and the Dozers, the Billy Price Band, The Fabulous Hubcaps and the
Hershey Symphony's "Salute to Broadway," together with a Cary
Grant Film Festival and play-reading tribute to the late Mt. Gretna
playwright Eton Churchill in the Hall of Philosophy. Suddenly, you have a
mid-summer lineup that, even amid a recession, virtually guarantees
another successful season for the 16-year-old festival.
Playhouse performances run Aug. 10-17. Ticket orders for all six concerts
in the series will be honored according to earliest postmark dates. And
early orders are strongly advised; last year, 97% of the available
tickets sold quickly, often well ahead of opening performances.
Coordinator Dick Smith says brochures with full details of this season's
offerings will be in the mail by mid-March, and volunteers at the box
office will begin mailing tickets in May. He reminds everyone to include
a SASE with orders. Since the $11 ticket price doesn't come close to
covering the festival's actual expenses, organizers ask for generous
donations to help keep prices low again in 2011.
So enthralled with the
Canadian Rockies that
she didn't have time to stop for a photo? It must have been an amazing journey
for traveler Kathy Snavely, who will share her experience at the March 2
meeting of Mt. Gretna's Winterites.
Discovering that she didn't have a single photo of herself, Kathy -- an
adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, award-winning businesswoman and
consultant -- did the next best thing: She sent us one of husband Cliff
at Alberta's Jasper National Park, as they made their way through Western
Canada aboard a glass-topped train.
Whether by train, car, ferry or yacht, the scenery was exquisite, says
Kathy. She'll have all the details at this month's Winterites gathering,
which begins at 1 p.m. in the Mt. Gretna fire hall.
Ahreum Han, first-place winner of the
prestigious Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition in 2007, will appear in
Mt. Gretna's organ recital series July 29. Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney, at whose
Princeton Avenue home the recitals have been presented for the past 13
years, heard Ms. Han perform in January at the Sarasota, Fla. conference
of the American Guild of Organists. "She is from Korea and plays up
a storm -- all from memory," says Peter.
A graduate of the Curtis Institute, Westminster Choir College and Yale
University, Ms. Han currently serves as organist at St. Andrew's
Episcopal Church, Stamford, Ct.
This year's recital series will extend its usual Thursdays-in-July
schedule into August, with a bonus concert Aug. 5 at the Mt. Gretna
Governor Dick Park's
opens weekends starting March 6 with programs that include nature
videos, fitness hikes, a boating safety course and an egg hunt for 3- to
10-year-olds. The park's website has dates,
times and other details.
Officials also announced they'll plant 15,000 seedlings of Virginia
pines, red and white oaks, redbud, sugar maple and black cherry trees in
an area being fenced off from deer. Funded by a government grant and
funds from the park's 2009 timber cut, that project had been delayed by
Dick Brown, the Mine
Road scientist, educator, naturalist and ecologist who established the Native Plant Action Network two years ago for people with
shared interests in plants (purple milkweed plants especially), has now
created two others: A butterfly and moth network and another called
Landscaping with Native Plants. Click here to request details.
Want to host an actor
Gretna Theatre seeks to place some of its performers in area homes. Director
Larry Frenock suggests that you may even host the next Bernadette Peters
or Charlton Heston (both of whom appeared here early in their
Arrangements call for a private bedroom and
access to kitchen facilities for anywhere from two to ten weeks.
"Many have found this to be a unique and rewarding experience,
and we are happy to provide recommendations from those who have
participated in the past," says Larry. Details: 964-3322.
Guide to Buffet Breakfasts" annually puts Trinity Lutheran Church's extravaganza in Colebrook
near the top. With its $6 admission charge ($3 for youngsters 5 to 11 and
those under 5 are free), the feast offers pancakes, eggs, sausage,
scrapple, pastries and fruit. Dale Grundon's personal favorite? Chocolate
cake with peanut butter icing. For breakfast? "What's wrong with
that?," he asks, always astonished by the question. Coming March 20,
6 a.m.-10 a. m.
tip: If you
have trouble printing copies of this newsletter, click here for the latest issue. (Keith
Volker usually has it posted on the Web within a few hours immediately
before or after the email version is dispatched.) Once you've opened the
current online version, just press the"print" command on your
Photos not visible?
Bob Hartman, who reads this newsletter in Manhattan, solves the problem
by right-clicking on the picture space and then selecting "Show
Another way to see the photos is to go to our Website: http://mtgretna.com/news and click on the current
Constant Contact, the commercial service that distributes this
newsletter, also gives this advice to readers when pictures don't appear:
Look at the top of the Newsletter for a button that may say something
like, "Show images and enable links. Always for this sender."
That's AOL's wording, but different email services use slightly different
terminology. Yet their meaning is the same. If you click on "Allow
content from this sender," the photos should appear immediately.
If you use an email service other than AOL and are still having
problems, drop us a note. We'll forward Constant Contact's specific
recommendations for your service.
Speaking of photos: If you have digital pictures
of Mt. Gretna scenes, events or people likely to interest others, please
email them to email@example.com. (That's what Evelyn Koppel
did Feb. 20, after she awoke to find a skier's untimely end on her front
lawn, left.) Whenever possible, we'll use them -- with appropriate
credit. Thanks so much for your help.
Photo: Evelyn Koppel
P.S. This may be as good a spot as any
to remind everyone that Evelyn Koppel and Sid Hostetter invite you to
join them every Friday for the Mt. Gretna Bird Club hikes, starting from
Governor Dick's Nature Center at 9:00 a.m.
Benjamin H. Withers
Ben Withers, who had lived a quiet life at his home on Lancaster Avenue
since 2004, died Jan. 23 in Lebanon's Good Samaritan Hospital
at the age of 76.
He achieved local recognition shortly after moving to Mt. Gretna when,
impressed by the quality of municipal services here, he attempted to
donate five dollars to help ease the borough's budget shortfall and urged
others to do the same. Since the law bars municipalities from accepting
donations, his money was returned. Nevertheless, the gesture of
appreciation for his new community radiated a spirit that neighbors found
A native of York, Mr. Withers graduated from Elizabethtown High
School and had served with the U.S. Army in Germany until 1956. Upon
returning to the United States, he pursued careers in government service,
first with the Air Force at Middletown, later as an appraiser with
Pennsylvania's Department of Revenue, and finally with the Pennsylvania
Turnpike Commission, where he retired in 1991. He is survived by two
brothers and ten nieces and nephews.
Burial services at Ft. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery will be held at
the convenience of the family, with a memorial service at a later date.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Haldeman Mansion Preservation
an organization to which Mr. Withers devoted much of his time in
retirement, or to the American Heart Association.
policy: The Mt. Gretna Newsletter mailing list is not sold,
rented, traded or shared with anyone, ever.
We offer this newsletter without cost or
obligation to anyone who enjoys reading about things that happen in Mt.
Gretna. Writing it is for us simply a pastime (without any
political or commercial ax to grind), much as woodworking might be for
We don't cover everything. Some topics, we feel, are better left to daily
newspapers, TV and other media. In fact, we generally aim to present news
that most readers aren't likely to have already read elsewhere. And we
always remember that those who receive this letter are, in effect,
inviting us into their homes -- a tacit reminder of our obligation to be
courteous, fair and respectful at all times.
We've been doing this for nearly ten years, usually once a month unless
we're traveling, ailing or attending to household duties that-- in the
interest of domestic tranquility -- sometimes take higher priority.
Our hope is that others will enjoy reading this newsletter almost as much
as we enjoy writing it. And we thank the many people in and outside of
Mt. Gretna who help us gather the news, take the photos, and then edit,
fact-check and proofread this newsletter before it starts its journey to
readers around the world with ties to, or affections for, Mt. Gretna, Pa.