Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Mt. Gretna, Pa. . . .'Not a place, but a spirit."
-- Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)
October 1, 2010
town that measures its progress by what it preserves
Among those who have lived year-round in Mt. Gretna for a decade or more,
fall often ranks as the favorite season.
It's a secret, however, that many year-rounders prefer to keep hidden,
and one that those who know the town only from a summertime perspective
can scarcely appreciate.
Trickles, not torrents
One recent convert to Mt. Gretna summer living, extending his
stay into September for the first time this year, expressed genuine
surprise: "Why, the town folds up after Labor Day," he harrumphed,
packing his bags and retreating to his permanent home in Florida.
What he took as disappointment, however, those who remain regard as
something akin to pure gold.
Fall is when Mt. Gretna's sometime prodding summertime pace slows to a
faint, mellow murmur.
Visitors still drop into town on Indian Summer weekends, of course, but
in trickles rather than torrents. Hand-holding couples, usually. In
numbers just steady enough to remind those who remain that what's left
over at the close of a busy summer season is more than enough to satisfy
the spirit and resonat
A delicate balance
e in the soul. As if such reminders were necessary.
Trees and leaves and plants and shrubs blend into soft, reassuring tones
that signal not an end but a return. Something solid awaits. Solid and
secure. A touchstone by which to measure choices.
For fall is also a time when Mt. Gretna enters into a period of renewal,
reflecting on the summer just past. The assessment of a past season
becomes an annual rite in a town that often measures its progress in
terms of what it has preserved rather than what it has added.
Look deeply into what gives the town its appeal. Reflect on qualities that
first attracted us to this place. Judge what it is that continues to make
others wish to live here -- sustaining real estate values, irreplaceable
cultural assets and a quality of life rarely glimpsed in a topsy-turvy
It is something that cannot be measured by the ordinary standards of
commerce: ticket sales, vehicular traffic and parking lots filled to
overflowing. That which draws the biggest crowds at the box office is not
necessarily aligned with Mt. Gretna's best interests.
The choices demand a delicate balance, faithful to ideas that others
brought forth more than a century ago. Ideas that help sustain Mt.
Gretna's enduring appeal to kindred spirits. It is a process requiring
adaptation perhaps, but not compromise. A blend that calls forth our
The good news came when they said
that to keep her job she'd have to move with Volvo's corporate
headquarters to North Carolina. That cinched it for Camp
A passion for flowers
meeting weekender Paula Deppen, who then poured her heart into
floral arranging, including classes at Longwood Gardens.
That's why you'll see her on Saturdays with fellow flower arrangers Mary
Hernley and Bonnie Boothman.
"I finally worked up the courage to ask Mary if I could sometimes
help out," says Paula.
"How about starting today?" asked Mary. That added an extra
spark to the floral venture she's started near Bethlehem, where husband
Chuck runs an appliance business. "Looking at mold growing on the
steps, he was a little wary of buying our cottage two years ago. He now
loves it almost more than I do," says Paula. They come with Rio, a
black greyhound, every weekend from Mertztown, a former farm community
overflowing with developments that builders give extravagant names. "We
wonder why they don't just call them something like
'OnceWasACornfield,'" she says with a laugh.
Paula says that, in addition to working with flowers, she appreciates the
advice she gets from Mary and Bonnie, both with years of experience in
doing floral arrangements for area churches, weddings and corporate
The fusillades from Soldiers Field ended more than 80 years ago. But Mt.
Gretnans this fall might swear they're under attack.
Cacophony on a tin roof
Acorns -- BIG acorns -- pummeling cars parked under oak trees have put
hailstorm-caliber dents in hoods, roofs and trunk lids, says Borough
supervisor Bill Care.
Extending his first retirement season into September, Paul Enck says it's
sometimes hard to get back to sleep with the steady "bam, bam,
bam" on the tin roof of his lakeside cottage.
Why more and bigger acorns this year? Paul suspects it's part of a
recurring cycle, or maybe a sign that under stress in dry summers, oak
trees release more acorns to survive.
"Want to know why more acorns are falling this year?" asks Bill
Care, sounding a little like Yogi Berra: "There's more of 'em up in
An animated Jane Anderson (far left) is just one of a
dozen or so Mt. Gretnans sharing excitement that summer resident Bonnie
Anderson stirred up when she returned to Mt. Gretna this year.
Gathered with friends Linda Gettle, Jean Healy and Cindy Myer on the
porch of the Hall of Philosophy one recent Saturday morning, Jane is
among the enthusiastic folks now enjoying Mah Jong -- an ancient Chinese
game Bonnie had discovered in North Carolina.
Returning to Mt. Gretna for her 24th consecutive summer this year, she
was determined to teach others the game. Bonnie's enthusiasm proved
contagious. "It's a challenging game and makes you think," says
Carol Mayer, another convert.
Want to join the sessions (Monday afternoons and Saturday mornings)?
Contact Linda Gettle, firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 964-2292.
Coming up, the
"best night of the year"
It's the biggest small event in Mt. Gretna. It's where marchers in the
parade outnumber parade-watchers along the sidelines 10 to one. It's
where -- census statistics aside -- one can truly see how many youngsters
live in Mt. Gretna (or, perhaps, how many grandparents, aunts and uncles wish
Where flamingos gather, spectators are scarce
And, for as long as she can remember, it's been the "best
night of the year" for 16-year-old Nicole Roberts.
It's the annual Halloween Parade, rumbling down Route 117 from the Jigger
Shop to the fire hall on Friday, Oct. 29.
Marchers will assemble at 6:30 p.m. Parade participants -- a flurry of
whirling dervishes, flashing fire trucks, and spine-chilling spooks -- will
cavort toward the fire hall promptly at 7:00 p.m. to tunes of a Halloween
Band led by Nicole's dad, Timbers Dinner Theatre music director Andy
Roberts. On drums will be Max Hunsicker, whose florid flamingos have
carved their niche in Mt. Gretna legend (and more than a few local street
And with his cape, outsized orange head and penchant for danci
ng with unescorted ladies in the fire hall will likely be
SuperPumpkin, who some say bears an uncanny resemblance to Mt. Gretna's
Big Junk Day Wizard Thatcher Bornman. Plus mountains of grilled hot dogs,
refreshments and volunteers' baked treats (brought by 6 p.m., please,
request fire company organizers) for one and all.
As for Trick or Treat night
itself? It'll be Thursday, Oct. 28, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mt. Gretna's
United Methodist Church will be open to hand out treats and provide a
break or restroom stop for parents, says Pastor Mike Remel.
How to draw a crowd
To be sure, Mt. Gretna has its vegans, vegetarians and devotees of
organic foods. But if you want to draw a crowd in Mt. Gretna, nothing
beats a pig roast on a Saturday afternoon.
Nobody expected the record-setting throng that showed up Sept. 11 to
sample morsels from the 260-pound (and biggest-ever) pig that
restaurateur Jason Brandt and his team roasted over a period of nearly 22
Not Karen Lynch -- whose kitchen volunteers had prepared mountains of
corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, cole slaw, glazed carrots, baked potatoes
and pineapple filling.
Not Glenda Wilkinson -- who, less than
It's what works!
two hours after the scheduled five-hour event began, announced
that all 150 tickets the firefighters had printed were sold out.
Not fire company president Joe Shay, who scratched his head, explaining
that in the past only about 125 people had shown up. So he scurried to
find other tickets -- any kind of tickets -- to sell to those waiting in
After exhausting even left-over tickets from a block shoot, the fire
company leader who also serves as Mt. Gretna's mayor adopted the honor
system. Those waiting to get in could deposit donations in a
firefighter's boot and savor what remained.
Thanks to Jason, the biggest-on-record pig turned out to be just enough
to feed the unexpected multitude. (The former Hideaway owner will soon be
plying his talents at a new restaurant, The Station House Tavern, at 1335
Fruitville Pike in Lancaster, site of the former Cafe Chuckles. He'll
open in mid-November with fare that won many fans at the Hideaway.)
Last month's fundraiser couldn't have been better timed, says a grateful
president Joe. "Since we have some large bills to pay when we're
generally low on funds, the proceeds go into the general fund. Our annual
appeal doesn't go out until November, and now is when we have inspections
and maintenance on our vehicles. So we depend on fundraisers to cover our
Call it the porcine solution. This year, in a drooping economy, it
somehow worked in a big way.
2010 champagne sendoff
Measured in terms of sheer elegance, it annually ranks at the top of Mt.
Gretna social events. Gretna Theatre's Gala at the Hotel Hershey Oct. 9 opens with a champagne
reception in the Fountain Court (right), followed by dinner in the Garden
Terrace Ballroom, the 2010 Gretna Gala Idol competition, awards and a
live auction -- with artwork, accessories and gift certificates -- by Mt.
Gretna auctioneer Mike Fortna.
Measured in terms of its fundraising importance, it's usually a key to
Gretna Theatre's continuing success since ticket sales at the box office
traditionally fall short of covering actual operating expenses.
highlights of this year's eve
... inside and out.
nt is a one-of-a-kind heirloom quality dollhouse crafted by Mt.
Gretna artist Eleanor Sarabia, creator of the fire company's coffee mug
series, now prized collectibles.
Complete with working
electric lights, turn-of-the-century furnishings and wallpapered
interiors, it's one of over 250
auction offerings. Others include a cruise for two, Broadway theater
tickets, a San Francisco vacation, and a Broadway poster autographed by
Bernadette Peters (who appeared here in 1969).
To donate auction items or volunteer to help at the event, contact Renee
Krizan (717-964-3322). See website for details.
1st generation in a long line of Mt. Gretna's
Enck family to actually be christen
Baptismal water fresh from the lake
ed here -- with water scooped from Lake Conewago -- at the
season's final Chautauqua service in the Playhouse.
Evan Kristian Enck, leading the fifth generation of Encks who'll trace
their Mt. Gretna heritage back to the Rev. Schuyler Enck (a co-founder of
the Campmeeting in 1892), is the one-year-old son of Christine and Jason
Enck of Newport Beach, Calif. Joining them for the ceremony by the Rev.
Stewart Hardy, retired minister of a Camp Hill church attended by
grandparents Paul (center) and Cheryl (right) Enck when they're not at
their Chautauqua summer cottage, were folks from everywhere, including
Jason's brother Corey and wife Kristin of Washington, DC, and Evan's
other grandparent, Adele McGeough from South Carolina.
2nd Year for Doodle, Mt.
Gretna's uncatchable rooster, now headed into another winter season. Abl
Baked, no milk.
e to leap across Route 117 traffic in a single bound (like
Superman), the indomitable fowl has escaped teams from the SPCA, fire
company volunteers skilled in rescuing cats up trees and pigeons in
distress, one of the best chicken catchers in Mississippi ("never
saw a rooster I couldn't catch"), aggressive dogs and occasional
inattentive motorists along Route 117.
How does he survive? Both with his demonstrably superior wits and help
from people like Mt. Gretna Realty's Peggy Seibert (who supplies special feed
for prize-winning roosters and coaxes him under the building on cold
nights) and pizzeria waitress Rose Bair, who always keeps on hand
Doodle's favorite: "baked oatmeal, dry -- no milk."
61 Years the Winterites, that hearty band of Mt. Gretna year-rounders,
have been meeting on first Tuesdays (October through April, except
With programs to brighten the bleakest days, their first session of the
2010-2011 season begins Oct. 5 with a preview of Eleanor Sarabia's
months-long endeavor to recreate a dollhouse by hand, in exquisite detail
for the Gretna Theatre Gala. The luncheon, catered by Chef-on-the-Go Rebecca
Briody, promises to be a
sprightly launch to the new season.
Open to all, the programs start at the Mt. Gretna fire hall promptly at 1
p.m. Reservations: Donna Kaplan, 964-2174.
81Years old this month and finishing up another season at her
flower, fruits and vegetables stand across from the Post Office: Marion
Brubaker says that 2010, despite the recession, has been a good year.
She grew into it
"No, people don't buy as many gladiolas as they did 10 or 15 years
ago," she says.
But, like a good marketer who knows her customers, she's filled in with
some of the best tomatoes money can buy, her prized lima beans, peppers
(which she also sells to the pizza shop) and other flowers and produce
from the Mt. Joy farm she and her husband operate.
The first official day of fall was her last for the season in Mt. Gretna,
but she'll be back next year.
Meanwhile, she finds plenty to keep her busy at the farm, the church
where she's volunteered on Wednesdays and the Brethren Village gift shop
where she volunteers on Fridays.
Her secret for good living? Could be her sense of humor and an
irrepressible love of people. There's no place she enjoys both more than
in Mt. Gretna, where she's sold flowers and cultivated friends for more
than four decades. Says Marion: "I just sort of grew into it."
Chips off the old
When it comes to spending the afternoon with friends and neighbors,
devouring roasted hot dogs piled high with sauerkraut, and sometimes walking off with
prizes to boot, there's scarcely a better place to spend a fall Saturday
afternoon than Mt. Gretna fire company's semiannual block shoot. Another
one's coming up Oct. 9, from noon to 5:00 p.m.
That's where you'll also find the unbeatable ham and bean soup that Mt.
Gretna legend Alice McKeone honed to perfection, her
grandmother's treasured recipe now guarded by Sharon Solie, with
steaming rivels as only Dot Frymyer can make them.
(Rivels? Don't ask, or they'll know you're not from around here. But
they're those white, doughy things that float around in the soup, making
it extra good.)
The real treasures, however? People like Chuck Allwein, Ginny Gearhart,
John Hambright and Sterling Gearhart (above) who come for the soup, the
shooting competition and the friendship. . . and always assign highest
value to the latter.
Apple of their eye?
You'll be just that (in the eyes of those fire company cooks)
if you sign up at the post office Saturday, Oct. 2 for their Apple
Dumpling Sale: $3 each, available for pick-up at the block shoot.
If you miss seeing them at the post office tomorrow, call in your order
(389-6611) by Oct. 4.
In other news
Sharpen your sense of protection,
awareness and well-being. Learn about ID theft, telemarketing schemes and
other risk-reduction strategies at Cornwall Police Department's Oct
. 19-Nov. 18 sessions for seniors, starting at 9:30 a.m. in
Gretna Springs. Contact Stephanie Burris, 274-2071, or email@example.com.
Also: Sign up for Cornwall PD's e-mail advisories, including news of
occasional burglaries and other incidents. Send your name, home address
and e-mail address to Chief Bruce Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A vision of what the Conewago Creek watershed (which begins in Mt. Gretn
A fresh outlook
a) might look like in the future is the subject of a special
conference coming up Oct. 23.
The session follows a planning kickoff in August and will present ideas
from people with a stake in the 52-square mile region, now considered
"impaired" by pollution and impacting local water quality, the
Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. meeting, at Middletown's Londonderry Elementary
School, is open to all and includes a free lunch. Register online or contact Mt. Gretnan Matt Royer (inset),
director of the Penn State Co-op Extension's Lower Susquehanna
Initiative, at 717- 948-6459 or email@example.com.
Honored last month as "ambassadors of goodwill" by Aruba's
tourism ministry for 21 consecutive years of visits to the island: Peter Hewitt (left) and Walter McAnney (right),
founders of Mt. Gretna's distinguished organ recital series, which
has just completed its 13th season.
Walter and Peter received certificates attesting to their loyalty to an
Aruba resort that has become a "home away from home," reports
friend and former Mt. Gretnan Pat Walter, now living at Cornwall
Another Christmas trip to New York City is in the works to benefit Mt. Gretna's fire company.
Organizer Rhoda Long (right) says the Dec. 14 event will include a
performance of the Radio City Rockettes ($110). For those wishing to join
the group but skip the Christmas show the cost is $50. Details: contact
Rhoda at (717) 304-0248.
 Here's a question that came up at breakfast recently, after a storm
passed through town and left half of Mt. Gretna in the dark: "I've
heard it said that during a power outage, the more people who call, the
faster Met-Ed responds." Is that true?
<> Met-Ed's Karen Baxter says she wouldn't put it that way, but the
company does encourage everyone to call.
"Even though we have computer-aided graphic displays and other
electronic aids, the more people who call, the more
information we have to plot out the actual footprint of the outage,"
she says. "That helps us see more clearly the area affected. The
more information we have, the more accurate our predictions are. If it's
a storm-related outage, we try to knock out the events that affect the
most customers and work our way down the list. We're trying to help the
most people as quickly as possible."
Does that mean small towns like Mt. Gretna will usually be among the
last to see service restored?
"No," says Ms. Baxter. "It's not the size of the town,
it's the size of the outage. Mt. Gretna is served by two circuits that
come out of Annville. There are many customers all along that circuit. We
look at the total number of customers affected, not at town or borough
So, although squeaky wheels may not always get the oil, we think it's
probably a good idea to have this Emergency Outage Reporting Center
If everyone calls immediately, even if it's dark in Mt. Gretna,
there'll be plenty of lights on Met-Ed's switchboard. . . and on its
 Ever noticed that chunk of a tree suspended in mid-air at the
corner of Lakeview Drive and Village Lane? How did it get there? And why,
when they chopped down the tree, did they leave it hanging?
<> How indeed did it get there? Why, when they chopped it down, did
they leave a block of what appears to have been a walnut tree suspended
Kent and Mary Jane Fox, original owners of this home, say the block
wasn't there when they moved to South Carolina seven years ago. And the
current owners, Ralph and Jackie Zimmerman, haven't a clue.
So, was the suspended tree chunk left there for a practical reason? To
avoid cutting into the wire, perhaps? Or merely by a whimsical chain saw
operator, adding a touch of mirth and mystery for future generations?
If anyone knows, please drop us a line. In the meantime, we'll add it to
that growing saga, "Legends of Mt. Gretna."
special bulletins are intended primarily for people who live in and
around Mt. Gretna. As occasional advisories issued when warranted, they
usually contain news about such things as temporary road closings,
disruptions to municipal services, utility repairs, severe weather shelter
availabilities and other items of local interest.
To avoid overburdening readers who live elsewhere in the world, we
normally do not circulate such bulletins to the full Mt. Gretna
Newsletter mailing list. They are, however, available to anyone
who wishes to receive them, regardless of where they live.
you would like to receive these interim bulletins, please send an e-mail
request to firstname.lastname@example.org with
"Local Updates" in the subject line. We'll add your name
to the mailing list.
This is an unofficial community
newsletter that is simply a retirement pastime, much as woodworking or
crossword puzzles might be for others. We have no political or commercial
axe to grind and send it by e-mail, without cost or obligation, to anyone
who asks for it.
We don't cover everything. Some topics are better left to daily
newspapers, TV and others with greater skills, resources and insights.
Generally speaking, we try to cover topics that readers probably haven't
read elsewhere. Yet since well over half of the folks who receive this
newsletter live outside of Mt. Gretna -- in other cities, states and
countries -- we sometimes squeeze in summaries of stories about Mt.
Gretna that appeared in local newspapers.
In preparing our reports, we try to keep in mind the example set by the
late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who felt as if people
were inviting him into their homes.
We also like the practical wisdom expressed in Rotary International's
Four-Way Test of the Things We Think, Say or Do. . . a useful
guideline not just for writers of community newsletters but for everyone:
Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build
goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
We've been writing this newsletter
since January 2001, usually once a month unless we're traveling, ailing
or attending to household duties that sometimes must take a higher
We thank the many people who help us gather the news, take the photos,
and then edit, fact-check and proofread this newsletter. They include
folks in Mt. Gretna, New York City, St. Paul, Minn. and Hilton Head,
If you have difficulty reading or printing the newsletter, please click
on the online version appearing at http://mtgretna.com/news.
Thanks to our friends at Gretna Computers, you can always find back issues of this
newsletter on the Web. That
online archive, we're told, occasionally proves helpful to people
planning to move to Mt. Gretna and others who want to know more about
what goes on in a community which, as the late Marlin Seiders once
observed, "is not a place, but a spirit."
is not sold, rented, traded or shared with anyone, ever.