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

  No. 115                                                          February 1, 2011


No image? See Website Man-about-town, bon vivant and stained glass artisan Dale Grundon can't be sure, but he thinks there may be fewer people in town this winter.  

Timber Hills resident Sarah Ellis says she walked all the way around the lake a few days ago without seeing a single soul. In the last several years, "that's not been unusual," she says.  

Perhaps everyone's gone to Florida, Arizona or California. Or maybe to one of those islands where people favor frothy drinks dotted with cherries, orange slices and tiny umbrellas. If so, they're missing a distinctive season of Mt. Gretna, perhaps one of its best.
For this is the time of year when a rare essence spreads across the landscape. Beneath a blanket of white, Mt. Gretna's iconic image -- the one known to visitors who come only in summer -- suddenly is transformed.
Draped in an ermine mantle -- white, fluffy and pure -- edged occasionally by minus degree temperatures guaranteed to etch enduring memories of a season unrivaled, it is a time when year-rounders discover a richness that summer residents may never come to know.
It is said that in a normal year, the wintertime population here falls from 2,500 to around 1,500. Perhaps the absence of people, however, is itself a myth. Maybe those who remain merely choose to huddle indoors, lured by friends, firesides and copious cups of hot chocolate and good books.
Add to that the alluring mixture of freshly whipped snow in a swirl of sugar, vanilla, fresh eggs and evaporated milk, and the snowcream medley proves too tempting to pass up. Not
No image? See Website even, perhaps, for a season in Sarasota.
To be sure, it is a quieter time. The sounds of February may be muted. Friends may seem scattered. But something about the bracing qualities of shared silence proves riveting. A sensibility perhaps unknown to those who scamper off to warmer spots at summer's end. Something that, even in winter, stirs in these cottages on a hill.
Perhaps that is why the opening lines of a poem by Ann Hark, a
Ladies' Home Journal writer of the flapper era who lived and wrote in a Mt. Gretna cottage, reverberate  still -- even in the quiet of winter:  Not for me a hiving city. Not for me the pulsing shore. But a little woodland corner -- This I ask and nothing more. . . .


Divining the Trends

What the Real Estate Market Portends
When it comes to assessing the strength of the economy, Mt. Gretnans have their own measuring sticks. Some look to butterbean sales at Marion Brubaker's roadside stand along Route 117. Others stick a finger in the wind when it's art show weekend, sometimes overlooking the fact that a rainy Saturday or Sunday can throw off statistical comparisons. Still others cast an eye over crowds at the Playhouse, occasionally mesmerized by the impact of a single star-studded sellout or perhaps overstating the dark omen of vacant seats on what may turn out to be the hottest night of the summer.

So for the most accurate measure, one must turn to more reliable indices. It might come down to Mary Hernley's flower sales or, equally revealing, the ebbs and flows of Mt. Gretna's real estate marketplace.

What the home sales statistics revealed last year are a few hopeful glimmers, a suggestion that sellers' expectations may now be a bit more realistic, and that buyers seeking bargains may be edging ever closer to a decision to finally act.

But don't think the market is anywhere yet close to a return of the peaks of two or three years ago, say Mt. Gretna's real estate veterans*.



                                   GLIMMER OF A COMEBACK?
       Year                      2006           2007      2008       2009      2010

       Homes Sold           40               27          25           16          22

       Avg. $ Price       230,802    269,000  272,872  239,531  242,000

       Change               +14%         +16%       +1%       -12%       +1%

Source: Mt. Gretna Realty


Mt. Gretna Realty owner Fred Schaeffer, who has been tracking property sales for the past quarter century, sums it up: "The broad picture is that prices today are off about 12% from their peaks of 2007 and 2008," he says. "While that's not bad compared to California, Nevada and Florida (where sales dropped 30%), the fact is that it took longer to hit here. The decline wasn't as severe, but it did occur. And that reality is now sinking in among sellers."

The good news, he says, is that average selling prices rose a bit in 2010, "so we might be on the rebound." But he believes that it will take time to get back to the highs of 2007 and 2008. "I think it's going to be really slow. It might be years before it gets there again," he says.   

Brownstone Realty's Emi Snavely, another veteran realtor, agrees. Yet she remains optimistic. "Slow sales in Mt. Gretna are not because we don't have good homes to offer. Ours are really top notch. And if somebody's looking for a second home, there's no better place to find it and no better time to buy."

Fred's advice to sellers? "You have to be realistic. Look at recent sales prices. The encouraging news is that it looks like the bottom is now over. So the marketplace is either going to be steady, based on prices of the previous two years, or we may see a slow price increase. But don't expect to see big gains."

Emi Snavely agrees with that assessment, counseling buyers that "prices today are as low as they've been in a long time. So the time to buy is now."

* Editor's Note: Penn Realty owner Joe Wentzel, who normally participates in this annual roundup, was out of town when this report was compiled.


In a Turbulent Marketplace, Keys that Steady 

Mt. Gretna Real Estate   

Recreational Opportunities:

Especially among younger buyers."Mt. Gretna is unique, surrounded by land that can't be built on," says Fred Schaeffer. "With the game lands, Governor Dick Park, the rail-trail, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and hiking, Mt. Gretna appeals to people who want an active lifestyle."  

Cultural Life:  

"Mt. Gretna's cultural aspects have always been a draw," says Emi Snavely. "People look forward to all that Mt. Gretna has to offer: its theater, its music, its summer programs and now even things like birding." 

"Everyone benefits from the summer concerts, plays and cultural programs," echoes Fred. "If those things suddenly went away, everybody in town would be affected. Not just those who live in cottages (which generally have higher per-square-foot prices than suburban-style houses). Whether you're in Timber Hills, Timber Bridge or elsewhere, even though we have many different local governments, we're all a part of the same community," he says.


"This may be the toughest market I've ever seen," says Emi, "but it's not because of the product. We have top-of-the line things to offer people who are in the market for second homes. For buyers, there's simply no advantage in waiting." 

"Mt. Gretna is always going to be a nice place to live," adds Fred. "It's always going to maintain its value. It may not increase as much as it did over previous years. But there's still going to be a good demand for Mt. Gretna."



Maddy Allwein joins the parade this month to remind everyone to fill up their water bottles for the Mt. Gretna Fire Department's "Dimes in a Bottle" campaign.

The Cedar Crest High sophomore is the daughter of Lebanon Avenue

No image? See Website

Photo: Cindi Dixon

residents Drew and Linda Allwein. Maddy and the firefighter

volunteers are counting on Mt. Gretnans to fill those bottles with dimes (folding currency works, too) for a collection that will help "burn the mortgage" on that new addition at the fire hall.

An enthusiastic musician who has twice been chosen to perform in invitation-only-orchestras (the Lancaster-Lebanon County Orchestra and, more recently, the District Band), Maddy also toured Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland last summer with her close friend Nicole Roberts as part of the American Music Band.  

She plans to combine music and business studies in college.  

What might surprise you about Maddy? She's eager to get out of bed at the crack of dawn to share duck hunting adventures -- joining her dad and granddad (borough president Chuck Allwein).  

The fire department's "Dimes-in-a-Bottle" campaign ends April 10 when everyone's invited to bring their newly filled bottles to the fire hall for a big celebration.


Erin Hannigan, who once entertained Valley Road neighbors as she practiced on her parents' screened porch and scooped ice cream at the Jigger Sh n op for four summers, just added another achievement to a stellar list of credits.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's principal oboist recently finished that city's White Rock Half Marathon (which started out in 35-degree temperatures0).
"When I run, I feel like I can't do anything wrong," she told a Dallas Morning News reporter. "I may not b No image? See Website e the strongest or the fastest, but I've gotten so much out of running," she says. 
She took up running to ease back and cramped muscle problems, likely the result of endless hours of practice combined with her busy schedule as an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University. She performed in Gretna Music's winter series a few years ago. In the audience was a sizable Jigger Shop contingent including Chuck and Charlotte Allwein and their son Drew and daughter-in-law Linda.

If you'll be in Dallas April 28-May 1, stop by. Erin will perform the Strauss Concerto in D major for Oboe and Small Orchestra.

Cindy Stauffer, who lives in nearby Lititz and is one of the Lancaster daily newspaper's most gifted writers, on No image? See Website topic of "last meals." What would show up on Cindy's list? "Salmon on the grill; homemade macaroni and cheese; Dad's waffles with bacon, coconut cake (with the green coconut like my Mom used on her Easter cake), and a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream served in a metal dish, just as they do at Mt. Gretna's Jigger Shop."


 At a small church in midwinter: a big agenda
"Believe it or not, winter is a busy time at the church," says Pastor Mike Remel, who leads a tiny but devoted congregation at the town's only house of worship.

Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, to the surprise of many, gets off to an exuberant start every Monday morning, rumbling to the music of Zumba Gold, an exercise group that is but one of several groups that use the church's facilities.
Diversity becomes an integral part of the delights that now attract growing numbers of people to the church on Fourth Street and Boehm Avenue.
That includes children.
Last month, the church expanded its Sunday School program to include an additional children's class. Youngsters in grades three to five now meet during the 10:00 a.m. worship service, in addition to Nursery and Beginners classes which also meet during that time.

Zumba starts  

then week

No image? See Website

A favorite at Nursery School 

Coming Feb. 2 at the nursery school, there's an event everyone looks forward to: the annual celebration of Groundhog Day, with a visit from Penny (left), Mt. Gretna's very own groundhog. She drops in to meet the children (ages 3 to 4) who sometimes prove unusually sophisticated. "There's a man inside that suit. I know. I've been to Disneyworld," said one.
Pastor Mike says the church members will be fueling up for the Big Game with their annual Souper Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6. On that happy occasion, everyone will gather in the social hall following the 10:00 a.m. service for homemade soup and fellowship.
Besides being lots of fun, the event also helps a local food bank since
everyone usually brings a can of soup or monetary donation to help the local food pantry.
Feb. 23 will mark another favorite time of the month: An assembly that turns the church into a "Gathering Place." There, a luncheon awaits everyone from the community who cares to stop by and join in the fun at noon for conversation, conviviality and a "great home-cooked meal," says the enthusiastic reverend.
Pastor Mike also notes that the choir already is tuning up with rehearsals for the Lenten Season. With a flourish he announces, 

No image? See Website

Watercolor, from the 2011 calendar by Carol Snyder

"heads up; rumor has it that the Sunday School kids are planning (with the help and guidance of their teachers) another program for Palm Sunday."
Somehow, with its tiny congregation and band of energized volunteers, the church -- tucked away in the Campmeeting in what one might have thought would be the quietest time of the year -- is a minor miracle, regularly occurring. 


A Reminder to Mt. Gretna Residents:
 This is the time of year when ice storms can bring down tree limbs and cause power outages. Remember to call Met-Ed immediately when you lose power. Met-Ed prioritizes its responses, giving top priority to outages affecting the greatest numbers of people. The number to call:   


The Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter during power outages lasting more than three hours.
Remember to bring medications and medical equipment; a sleeping bag or blanket and pillows; food for yourself and family members; books, games and other materials to help pass the time and, if the stay is likely to be for several days, a change of clothes. Pets cannot be accommodated.


Here's the latest Fire Department fundraiser on everything from pizzas, computer services and bowling to pet toys, greens fees and nail care with the fire department's new Merchant Discount Card. You can even use it to slim down this year at Curves! 

It's the firefighters' newest fundraiser that -- with a $20 donation -- offers a year's worth of savings.

More than 20 local merchants at spots like the Hideaway, Tony's Mining Company, Mt. Gretna Pizzeria, Mt. Gretna Emporium, Tree Top Golf Course, Lazer Factory and other outlets are taking part.

Available through Joe Shay [717-821-6413] or Mark Miller [717-269-8961], the cards offer money-saving discounts through Jan. 22, 2012.

In other news. . .

No image? See Website Mt. Gretna's newest residents: Lois Herr, a former candidate for the 16th Congressional District (Lancaster) seat held by Republican Joe Pitts. A Lancaster newspaper reported that she does not intend to seek the seat now held by Congressman Tim Holden, Pennsylvania's senior Democrat. Lois, a former telecommunications executive, served under President Gerald Ford in the Office of Management and Budget. She is the author of two books, including one, "Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII," based on letters to her dad from athletes he had coached at Elizabethtown College.  

 Scatter winter's doldrums with these sparkling solutions:  

Gretna Theatre presents a Valentine's Weekend  

sNo image? See Website Feb. 12-13 at Myerstown's Lantern Lodge, a romantic evening with Broadway stars Timothy Shew and Jane Brockman in "Love 'Round the Piano."   

The theatre company also plans a bus trip to see Jersey Boys on Broadway March 26. Click for details.

Another Valentine's treat to keep in mind: Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry's special dinner, Saturday, Feb. 12 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. For details, see their new website:

Coming next month at Gretna Music: another opportunity to combine dinner, a pre-concert talk and then an evening of fine music with Imani Winds March 5 on the campus of Elizabethtown College. Details appear online at


Perhaps it's the persistence of what already seems a long winter. Or maybe it's because Mt. Gretnans have a long tradition of playing board games out on their expansive front porches. But there's something intrinsically appealing about the latest idea from those imaginative volunteers at the Mt. Gretna Fire Company.

What's next? A Family Game Night at the fire hall. Coming this Saturday (Feb. 5) from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., it's not really a fundraiser. Rather, "it's just an opportunity for a community get-together in the middle of this relentless winter," says organizer Karen Lynch. "A friend does this at her church. I thought it might be something fun to try," she says. "If it goes over well, maybe we'll do it more than once a year." To join in the fun, bring your family and friends, your favorite game and a dessert or snack to share.

Organic farmer Casey Spacht (right) was scheduled to describe his work at a Winterites' meeting today (Feb. 1), but the session has been canceled because of expected bad weather. Planners hope to reschedule his appearance No image? See Website a later date. Spacht is part of a Community Supported Agriculture program that can, if enough people are interested, make weekly produce deliveries to places such as Mt. Gretna. A grower of mostly medicinal herbs and rare specialty varieties of fruits and vegetables, he also manages Lancaster FarmFresh Company, a non-profit organic farmers' co-op.  Now in their 57th year, the Winterites encourage everyone in the Mt. Gretna area, both women and men, to join them Tuesday, March 1, when they will hear a presentation on search and rescue hounds. Their monthly meetings begin at 1 p.m. in the Mt. Gretna fire hall. H. Coleman impersonator Franklin Bergman brings the iron industry magnate to life Tuesday, Feb. 8 at Freeman Hall auditorium, Cornwall Manor. The 7:00 p.m. lecture, with Bergman in period costume, is the second in a series of Friends of Coleman Iron Furnace programs.

 The Timber Hills home of Ceylon and Karen Leitzel was the spotlight feature of Professional RemodNo image? See Website magazine last month.  An article describes how the couple, with the help of architect Don Klinger (Karen's uncle), transformed a "plain jane 1970 two-story" suburban home on Village Lane into the "ornate, luxurious, Victorian-style 'Painted Lady' they envisioned that it could become," says the magazine's writer. The project took two years to complete, but the wait was worth it, says Ceylon.    

From a guy who knows how to enjoy one!

In the middle of winter, here's what you call a party

On Halloween, he's known as SuperPumpkin, parading down Route 117 with street-filled assembly of goblins who look on him in utter amazement.

On "Big Junk Day," he's the happy hot dog of Lancaster Avenue, welcoming passersby to an impromptu supper of succulent wieners roasted on a discarded grill he discovered years ago. It's a celebration of -- well, nothing in particular -- except just another excuse to have a party.

Now this month, Thatcher Bornman -- Mt. Gretna's loveable free spirit -- is helping whip up enthusiasm for the Mental Health Association's Feb. 19 bash at Marabelle's Waterfall Room in Lebanon.

"It's a dance party for all ages," says Thatch, who serves on the association's board of directors. He devotes much of his attention to a bipolar disorder and depression support group, available without charge to Lebanon County residents.  

"We've got everything for this occasion -- even a limbo line," says Thatch, who knows how to throw a party that positively everyone enjoys.

Admission cost is $20 and includes snacks and refreshments, door prizes, raffle baskets and a dessert table. There's also a cash bar.

Doors open at 8:00 p.m. at the ballroom entrance, to the rear of the building at 1352 Cumberland St., Lebanon.


Speaking of pictures. . .  
The joys of winter as seen through the viewfinders of Mt. Gretna photographers.
These scenes from the storms of January capture a wonderland for all who were here to enjoy them. . . recorded by photographers Dale Grundon, Madelaine Gray, and Judy Bojko.

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At a Campmeeting cottage, you can bet there's hot chocolate inside.

  When it comes to clearing snow, nobody does it better.



"This is your idea of a wonderland? Forget it!"







No canoe permits needed... for today, at least

Memo to guy above (with the mustache):"I'm with you, pal"

Even in winter, at the Hall of Philosophy the colors unfurl

Rhododendrons bow to the onset of winter's first big storm

The Campmeeting's narrow streets call for special skills

'Whose woods these are I think I know...."

You'd never guess, but that's cross-country skier Elaine Feather, out enjoying retirement

Skis outside mean somebody's inside the pizzeria having breakfast  













Yes, there's something special about winter in Mt. Gretna: A time for friends and family in a season where memories are made. . . in a place unlike none other, anywhere on earth.



LaVerne Wiebenga Hunley 1932-2011
 If there's a common thread among those who seem to get the most out of living in Mt. Gretna, it may be something like this: Love life and the people around you. Look for ways to make yourself useful. And don't take yourself too seriously.
LaVerne Hunley, who lived here for more than four decades and died in a Lebanon hospital Jan. 18, deftly combined tho
No image? See Website se qualities. She met Jim, her future husband, at the lake in the 1940s. He was an accomplished swimmer, she a lifeguard. They were married in 1953. Seven years later, they moved to Mt. Gretna, first in a log home at 4th and Birch, then to a cottage at 3rd and Maple, where their neighbors included multiple generations of the Hoober family, the Hoffman-Garman family, the Louders and Nancy and Russell Hatz.
She and Jim were enthusiastic volunteers at the fire company; LaVerne organized a subscription renewal program for Gretna Theatre, was a big supporter of Music at Gretna, and supervised the box office at the Playhouse, where she also kept the books and helped with fundraising and marketing.
Known as the "frog lady" because of a collection of stuffed frogs she took along when she moved to a retirement home after Jim's death, she said the decorative pets reminded her of a frog pond in back of her house. She didn't mind the nickname, nor dressing up occasionally in funny hats that she sometimes fashioned for herself (like the one pictured, made from assorted artificial flowers she had lying around and created especially for a Victorian Christmas Tea in 2006). "She loved dressing up and wearing silly hats," says her cousin Joan Terwilliger.
A student at the Peabody Institute and Lebanon Valley College, she had been a music teacher and choir director. She and her husband had also contributed to a restoration of the C.S.S. Hunley, the Confederate submarine that became the first to be used in warfare. In addition to her husband, she was also preceded in death by their daughter, Ruth Angel Hunley. Contributions in her memory are being received by the Humane Society of Lebanon County, Annville Free Library and the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center of Lebanon County.


Other newsletters you may like to receive. . .

Mt. Gretna Updates -- Issued occasionally by e-mail and primarily of interest to year-round residents. News of temporary road closings, utility repairs and other conditions affecting people who live in the seven neighborhoods served by the Mt. Gretna post office. Send an e-mail request, with "LOCAL UPDATES" in subject line, to
This Week in Mt. Gretna -- Issued during summer months; a week-by-week listing of local events, sent by e-mail on request. To add your name to the mailing list, e-mail
Mt. Gretna Arts Council Newsletter -- Now available ONLY online (no mailed copies). Updated to include news concerning groups dedicated to the arts in Mt. Gretna, Calendar of Events, Summer Premier and Arts Council scholarships. Click here.
Gretna Music bulletins -- Updates on concert events, schedule changes and other news. See "Join Our Mailing List" at
Mt. Gretna Historical Society Newsletter  --  New Winter Edition Now Online at
Mt. Gretna Bible Festival Newsletter -- Mailed in the spring and fall without charge. Send request to Bible Festival, P.O. Box 408, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.
Governor Dick Park Newsletter -- New Winter Edition Now Online and by e-mail. See
Cornwall Police Department E-Mail Bulletins -- issued as warranted to update residents on events of community interest, including crime alerts. To add your name to the mailing list, e-mail request to
South Londonderry Township Newsletter -- of primary interest to Mt. Gretnans in Timber Hills, Conewago Hill and Timber Bridge; online at
Campmeeting Newsletter -- Available online and mailed to residents.
Mt. Gretna Heights Newsletter -- e-mailed to Heights residents. Address inquiries to Michelle Shay,



This unofficial community newsletter has no affiliation with any particular group or organization and no political, philosophical or commercial axe to grind.
Mainly, this is a retirement hobby, much as woodworking, crossword puzzles or gardening might be for others. It has the dual virtue of keeping us in touch with a community we love and out of the kitchen where we're apt to make a mess.
We send this letter by e-mail to anyone who asks for it. There is no charge and no expectation of anything other than friendship, conviviality and a gentle prodding when we err.

Don't expect to find everything in this newsletter. Some topics are better left to journalists who are smarter, more skilled and possessed of greater insights on a wide range of fronts.
Generally speaking, we try to cover topics that readers haven't already 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 summarize stories about Mt. Gretna that appear 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 of Rotary International's durable 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 deflected by domestic duties that 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 with special skills and knowledge of Mt. Gretna who live not only here but also in places like New York City, St. Paul, Minn. and Hilton Head, S.C. Other volunteers are welcome, whenever and wherever they can lend a hand. 
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
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