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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Mt. Gretna, Pa. . . .'Not a place, but a spirit."
  -- Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)

     No. 111                                     October 1, 2010

A 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 world.
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 best.


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 events.

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 the trees."


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, 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 they did).

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 signs).
And with his cape, outsized orange head and penchant for danci

Familiar face?

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.                                                                                                                    Dale Grundon photos


The porcine solution:
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 hours.
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 line.
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 expenses."
Call it the porcine solution. This year, in a drooping economy, it somehow worked in a big way. 


Gretna Theatre's 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 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.
Among the

Turn-of-the-century look...

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 January).
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 block
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

Dale Grundon photo

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
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,

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

Honored last month as "ambassadors of goodwill" by Aruba's tourism ministry for 21 consecutive years of visits to the isl Peter (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 Manor. 

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.


Questions Readers Ask

[] 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 electr 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 limits." 
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 number handy:


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 graphic displays.

[] 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 in mid-air?
Kent and Mary Jane F, 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:
Local Updates

These 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.

If you would like to receive these interim bulletins, please send an e-mail request to 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 priority. 
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, S.C. 
If you have difficulty reading or printing the newsletter, please click on the online version appearing at
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."
Kindest regards,
Roger Groce
Privacy policy: The Mt. Gretna Newsletter mailing list is not sold, rented, traded or shared with anyone, ever.


The Mt. Gretna Newsletter | P O Box 607 | Mt Gretna | PA | 17064