Mt. Gretna, Pa. "Not a place, but a spirit." Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)
warmth that counts
a recent Saturday morning, at probably the only pizza shop in America
that thrives on its breakfast fare, a well-dressed couple sat along
windows that look out onto Timber
Road as they finished their eggs benedict
and blueberry pancakes. Against bright sunlight unusual for late
November, they looked as if they might just as well have been in Florida. We
shared that thought aloud as we passed their table.
"We'd rather be here," said the
woman, who looked as if Florida
was clearly an option but one they no longer cared to take.
is it about Mt.Gretna that makes
people who have a choice wish to stay here in the winter? That thought
lingered as we paid our bill and walked across the street. After all,
we are among those who have spent several winters down South in recent
Why do so many of us do that? To escape an
occasional snow that others seem to enjoy? To avoid slipping on the
ice? (Darlene Eckert introduced us to WinterTrax,
which solves that problem in a twink.) Or is
it that we truly enjoy conversations with people we barely know who
struggle to find something in common to talk about? "Er, how's your golf game?"
Except for skies that are blue, winters aren't
all that great in warm but unfamiliar places where you go to the post
office and see nobody you know. Conversations with casual acquaintances
are polite. But seldom do they engender deep, from-the-belly laughter
that comes naturally with old friends. And snowbirds have to work hard
to maintain satisfying relationships a thousand miles from home. Their
handful of casual friends will soon melt away -- either to retirement
homes, to move closer to grandchildren or because they die.
that with the gifts of Mt. Gretna, where -- in terms of their ability
to warm hearts in ways that truly count -- friendships, firesides and
post office chats dwarf sunshine, cocktail parties and golf.
Mt.Gretna is a place where most of us know each other
well. Even if someone dies, even if they're among our best-known,
best-loved neighbors, the bounce-back factor for those who remain is
high. Others are here to provide the support we need. A deep reservoir
of strength that usually sees us through.
our breakfast companions last week were Ron and Karrie Hontz, summer residents on the last visit of the
season to their barely heated Campmeeting
cottage, where they spent on November's final weekend what Karrie
called "a two-dog night."
Ron shared a tale of how they met neighbors
Betsy Barnhart and Tim Dailey. Looking for a place to watch PennState football soon after they
bought their cottage a couple of years ago, he headed to the Hideaway
since his tiny TV couldn't pull in the game. On the way, Betsy, whom he
hadn't yet met, was out on her porch talking with Karrie. "Oh,
Tim's in watching that game," she said, and took him inside.
"Tim, this is Ron." With that, she left them to the game and
a spontaneous new friendship. "Things like that don't happen in
Skippack," says Ron.
An item in this issue relates how Ted Martin
met new friends Harry Short and Frank Romonoski
when he set out to borrow two tablespoons of cornstarch one afternoon
last month. Another tells of how Mt.Gretna's
Christmas tree tradition began when Tom Miller's dad died one November
day, and Tom suddenly had an extra 12-foot tree on his hands. Friends
and neighbors decorated it as a memorial to his father.
The stories are
telling. So when snowbirds ask themselves, "Why do we do this?," they may decide that sure, there are
sunnier places than Mt.Gretna in the
winter. But few give rise to the warmth that really counts.
The Sights and Sounds of
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays Dec. 1-24
Gretna Theatre's Holiday Booth
Gift certificates and other items including Madelaine
Gray note cards and Nancy Bishop watercolor prints.
14th Annual Community
Christmas tree lighting,
5:30 pm. Carol singing, hot mulled cider and
organ music at the home of Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney,
opposite the post office. No admission charge; please bring a holiday
treat to share.
Lionheart, . Among the world's best
all-male vocal ensembles, at Gretna Music's winter performance venue, ElizabethtownCollege.
through Dec. 18
Advent series on Jesus' family tree, 7 pm. Says Mt. Gretna United Methodist
Church minister Mike Remel, "I know this
probably sounds boring, but once you learn about some of the characters
in Jesus' family, our own families don't seem so bad."
Winterites' holiday covered dish luncheon. .
Bring a meat dish, casserole, vegetable, salad or dessert to share. At
the fire hall. Everyone's invited, women and
men, as well as friends and neighbors.
Dec. 7 The Gathering Place.
Mt.GretnaUnitedMethodistChurch, . A special Christmas luncheon
where everyone's invited, old friends and new. Freewill offering.
Dec. 10 Lunch with Santa at
the fire hall, .
(Cookie bakers: please drop off your Christmas treats early that
Christmas Scavenger Hike, 1:30 pm. Governor
Saturday, Dec. 17 Breakfast with Santa at Le Sorelle, 9 to 11 am.
Free photos. No reservations.
Dec. 22 Belsnickel Night at the Timbers,
7 pm. Tom Baum and Max Hunsicker present
their annual account of Chet Williamson's Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas:
"Four cows and four steers, harnessed somehow, vere
dragging behind them an old-fashioned plow. And there, chust behind it, sour as a pickle, Vas a fella ve knew had to be theBelsnickel."
By the fireside, downstairs. (Reservations recommended: 964-3601.)
Saturday, Dec. 24 Candlelight services,
7 and 11 pm.Mt.GretnaUnitedMethodistChurch.
Sunday, Dec. 25 Special service at Mt.GretnaUnitedMethodistChurch. only. "How often do we have
opportunity to celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas Day?" asks
pastor Mike Remel. "Don't miss this
(Note: The Jan. 1 service on New Year's will also be held only at .)
Eve party at the
Buffet dinner ($20.95) accompanied by pianist Andy Roberts and
with after-dinner party tunes by Andy, Scott Galbraith, Bart Briody and
friends in a six-piece dance band. Reservations: 964-3601.
Donor Who Knows What Makes Mt. Gretna Tick Offers Matching Funds to Fix
Up the Fire House Kitchen
Guess what showed up in the mail last week? An anonymous donor's offer
to provide $15,000 in matching funds to pay for a renovated kitchen in Mt.Gretna's fire hall.
The offer is
straightforward: The benefactor promises to match dollar for dollar, up
to $15,000, checks that arrive earmarked
Obviously, it comes from someone who understands full well the value of
a fire company kitchen in Mt.Gretna. It's the
place where tummies are fed, spirits are lifted and people take
pleasure from renewed contacts with neighbors they know but don't see
every day. That's why events like Sunday morning breakfasts,
Italian Night suppers, and pig roasts score high on the sociability
drive to upgrade the kitchen for the dedicated folks who make the
Trouble is, the fire company's kitchen needs
help: a new commercial refrigerator is the top priority. Then comes a new hood system for the stove.
Before it was replaced just last year, the old stove looked as if it
had barely survived Sherman's
March Through Georgia. We remember the time a few years ago when
volunteer cooks were busy preparing Alice McKeone's
legendary ham and bean soup for a block shoot. That's when a fire
suddenly broke out under the ancient stove. But the ladies, armed only
with soup ladles and wet towels, somehow managed to extinguish it
before the alarmsounded. Thank goodness.
Otherwise, imagine the embarrassing headlines that would have
ricocheted around the globe: "Firefighters Called to Quell Flames
at Firehouse Kitchen."
So no more putting this one on the back burner, says the note that
accompanied this $15,000 challenge. It's high time for the Mt. Gretna
Fire Company to have a kitchen that ranks among the best, matching the
dedication of those who serve the meals.
Matching funds? It's the offer of someone who knows instinctively the
essential ingredients of a life well-lived.
Exploring a Tradition:
Origins of Mt.Gretna's
Community Christmas Tree
For the past 14 years, Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney have more or less officially launched Mt.Gretna's holiday season from
their home across from the post office. They'll do the same again this
year, with a tree lighting ceremony, carol singing, organ music and a
harvest of treats brought in by all Mt. Gretnans who stop by for this festive occasion around
5:30 pm on Saturday, Dec. 3.
That's now a
tradition. But how did it get started?
From his home in North
Carolina, former Mt. Gretnan
Tom Miller recently shared with us its origins, which actually began on
a cold November day in 1995. That was the day when Major General
William Miller, Tom's father, died. As usual that year, Tom had
pre-ordered a Christmas tree from Jeff' White Birch Farm in
as part of a deliberate strategy to circumvent his dad's repeated
threats to "go artificial." Yet with his dad now gone, what
to do with an extra 12-foot Christmas tree?
Tom asked permission to place it at the point where Pinch Road
and Princeton Avenue
intersect with Route 117. The home at that location was then
unoccupied, just before John Balmer began a
remodeling project that would take several years. Tom got not only
permission to place the tree on the site but also received help from
borough staffers who connected the lights as a festive pre-Christmas
touch that would also serve "as a sort of memorial," says
Tom. Friends and neighbors added ornaments.
continued for the next few years as the remodeling project progressed,
right up until 1998, Tom recalls. From that point, Peter and Walter
planted a live pine tree at the point, and the heritage -- now enriched
by music, singing, and shared treats swathed in fellowship --
2011 Soup Cook-Off Winner
Cool in a crisis, he wins with
half a pot of hot soup
By training, John Noullet is
accustomed to handling an emergency. He is, after all, the Director of
Crisis Intervention for LebanonCounty.
But even that didn't prepare him for the one that accompanied his
Limited Edition Mushroom entry in the soup cook-off last month.
He had prepared it the night before at the home of a friend in Hershey.
On John's way back to Mt.Gretna, with a
crock pot tucked into the passenger seat, a deer jumped in front of his
car, and about half a kettleful of soup spilled onto the floor. He
carefully lifted his now half-empty pot back onto the seat and limped
home to his Chautauqua cottage, where wife Betsy had been preparing a
soup of her own. But what remained of John's entry wasn't nearly what
he'd hoped to offer some 120 judges who would cast their votes the next
spill didn't spoil the soup
Yet he won. Clear
proof of not only John's culinary skills but also his now undeniable
distinction as a cool man in a crisis with hot soup.
Runners-up were 2010 finalist Bob Hertzler
(with crab bisque) and Jean Ditzler, a former
cookoff winner whose Italian Cheddar Broccoli
squeaked out second place in a tight contest where single-digit margins
determined the top three finishers.
All the entries in this year's contest were top shelf, Thatcher Bornman said later. "Someone told me, 'If I
were in a restaurant and they served me any one of these 15 soups, I'd
be delighted,'" said Thatch, who organizes this annual event to
benefit the fire company.
Taking top honors in both the Best Presentation and Most Unique
categories was newly elected WestCornwallTownship supervisor Glen Yanos, whose ties to Mt.Gretna
stretch back over many years. "I love it out here," says the Mine Road
resident, who also happened to be the Best Presentation winner last
The most distant contestant was RoseannBattistia of Hartly, Del., a friend
and co-entrant of Conewago Hill resident
Laura Feather. Other Mt.Gretnans
in the contest were Amy Steiner (who placed second last year), Deb Vollmar, Pat McGough,
Betsy Noullet, Sid and Evelyn Hostetter, and Gloria Rust, the 2010 winner.
Contestants from other areas included Kathleen Herr and Linda Martin of
Lancaster, Doug Wentz and Lewis Fewfell of
Manheim, Lucia Vella of Lebanon
and Jeanie Krause Bachard of Mt.Joy.
No, you don't
often see them in Mt. Gretna. So where did this infrequent visitor turn up? Where else but
right in Sid Hostetter and Evelyn Koppel's
front yard. They're the couple who moved to Valley Road several years ago and
promptly founded the Mt. Gretna Bird Club. Perhaps this chukkar arrived on Thanksgiving Day just to honor
Evelyn. "He's not a native partridge, and he probably had just
been released by the Pennsylvania Game
Maybe so. But he knew
precisely where to land in Mt.Gretna. And until
yesterday morning, just hours before this month's issue was scheduled
for release, he was still hanging around the home where Sid and Evelyn
created "A garden that recreates a sense of place -- and helps
preserve wildlife," as an entry on the 2011 Mt. Gretna Tour of
Homes brochure pointed out. "Our chukkar
seems to have moved on," a wistful Evelyn reported.
You can be sure
they'll soon have another adventure to share, however. So if you're
looking to add a little zest to your life, join them: The Mt. Gretna
Bird Club meets every Friday at in the Chautauqua parking lot. They usually top off
their excursions with breakfast at a local restaurant. Email Evelyn for
can sink his teeth into.
Remember Bo, the forlorn English Springer Spaniel that lost his
favorite glove? Try as they might, his Village Cove owners Tom and
Joanne Honeychurch couldn't come up with a
satisfactory replacement. Although they still haven't found Bo's
original glove after months of searching, last week they finally
discovered an acceptable substitute. And guess what? Bo likes it! A
former champion show dog, now retired at age 6 and less in the
limelight, he has discovered the true meaning of Rod Stewart's Until
The Real Thing Comes Along ballad (lyrics translated in Dog),
"If that's not glove, it'll have to do. . . ."
A tip of the
hat to Kerry Royer, who
came up with the idea to recycle magazines printed on glossy paper with
a collection bin at the post office to benefit the Ronald McDonald
House. "It's amazing how many magazines accumulate, especially in
the pre-holiday advertising frenzy," says Evelyn Koppel, who
thinks Kerry deserves "a big thanks" as do the volunteers who
haul the magazines to drop-off points. "This
effort not only keeps all this material from our already overflowing landfills,"
says Evelyn, an avid conservationist, "but it also raises money
and provides an unexpected benefit: the pleasure everyone gets from
borrowing catalogs and magazines from the bin."
A Nessie sighting in Mt.Gretna? Loch Ness has its monster and maybe we have
one, too. It all depends on your point of view, says Chautauqua
newcomer Lois Herr who has the gift of seeing things in a new way and brings them to our attention.
Lois, a former candidate for Congress, made the news this week in one
of Lancaster Newspapers' best-read columns, the Scribbler. Author Jack
Brubaker, whose parents once owned the Stevens Avenue Cottage next to
Bill and Leanne Harrington, chronicled Lois' intense interest in
following efforts to positively identify the remains of an American
pilot who crashed in a Malaysian jungle 66 years ago. The pilot was her
visitors to the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society on weekends from June through August, says
the society's latest newsletter, which also recounts the impact of the
1893 depression on Mt.Gretna founder
Robert H. Coleman's plans.
this number handy:
power outages occur, call Met-Ed immediately:
Met-Ed gives top
priority to outages affecting the greatest numbers of people. Your call
not only helps pinpoint the scope of an outage but may also speed
repair crews to Mt.Gretna.
Call even though
others in your neighborhood have also reported the outage. Each call
helps nudgeMt.Gretna a little
higher on the priority list.
During extreme cold
weather, the Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter in
power outages that last more than three hours. 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. Sorry, no pets.
IN OTHER NEWS
the Timber Hills vicinity,
who have sometimes expressed that they feel like neglected orphans in
the sweeping expanse of South Londonderry Township (a municipality
that's 150 times larger than Mt. Gretna itself), may take some comfort
from this news: The supervisors have decided to move their meetings
around a bit next year. That thoughtful gesture, apparently intended to
make outlying areas seem a little less "out of sight, out of
mind" will begin with a Wednesday, Feb. 15 session in Mt.Gretna, at the Timbers, starting
Gretna Playhouse director Will Stutts appears at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre
this month as Noel Coward in Noel and Gertie. Based on
Coward's relationship with Gertrude Lawrence (who happened to be a
friend of Tallulah Bankhead, Stutts'
second cousin), the limited engagement runs through Dec. 31.
WestCornwallTownship is setting up an emergency notification
system for township
residents who live near Philhaven. The system
will alert residents if patients escape from the psychiatric hospital.
Call township secretary Suzanne Heller (272-9841) to include your name,
number and email on the notification list.
Borough approved plans last month for the $300 million hotel, indoor water park and 500-home development
to be called the Preserve at Historic Cornwall Village, four miles from
Mt. Gretna. When will construction begin? "The economy will be the
determining factor," says spokesman Paul Callahan, who expects
that once the project gets underway, it will take 20 years to complete,
The Patriot-News reported.
So why did
the lights often flicker but not go out altogether during the pre-Halloween snowstorm that swept
through Mt.Gretna? It's
Met-Ed's new adaptive relay system, says spokeswoman Karen Baxter.
"It gives power lines a chance to 'self-heal,'" she says.
"We use it only during storms. Often, a branch will hit a line and
then fall off. Under the old system, that branch would cause a fault
and a truck would have to be dispatched to fix it. With the new system,
if the line goes out for a couple of seconds, it tries to close again.
If it can, it self-heals and no one has to go out to make the repair.
In a way, it's annoying because sometimes the power can be off just
long enough for you to have to reset your clocks, but it does save
maybe a three-hour outage if you must wait for someone in a line
truck," she says.
Timber Hills residents plan another mid-winter community
get-together. They'll gather at the Timbers Friday, Jan. 20,
starting at 5 pm. "Or whenever it's convenient for you to get
there," says co-organizer Esther Mefferd,
who helps husband Ted and friends Bob and Patsy Oburn
plan the social affairs that residents in the Timber Hills area now
organize as means of helping new and old neighbors get to know
one another better.
Order what you want and pay for what you get, says Esther, suggesting
that you call the Timbers for reservations (964-3601), preferably
before Jan. 13. Questions? Drop her a note or call 964-3123. You can
reach the Oburns at 964-1342.
What to do with your old computer? Donate it to the
new Computer Lab that Anna McDonald will set up at Mt.GretnaUnitedMethodistChurch next
summer. "We already have a designated space in the church, a
donated printer and one offer of a few machines," she says,
"but some are outside our preferred age range." Volunteers
will teach classes on learning to use computers, mastering online
shopping, Facebook, and how to pay bills safely. Laptop clinics are
also a possibility, so people can learn on their own machines. As for
donations, Anna hopes to get equipment that's no more than five years
old. She can also use a projector and networking equipment. Contact her
grocery stores? When you run out of something in Mt.Gretna.
Keep Knocking on Doors
Ted Martin says sometimes his friends and
former state government colleagues in Harrisburg simply don't believe his
stories about Mt.Gretna.
They probably don't believe we have a bantam rooster that rules the town, for
instance. Or that maybe half the people here know one another on a
Or if you run out of cornstarch in the middle
of whipping up a dessert to accompany your Fidget Pie, you can simply
walk down the road to ask Pat Pinsler. If she
doesn't have it, she'll walk you across the street to the Mt. Gretna
Inn where inn owners Harry Short and Frank Romonoski
had just the right amount Ted needed to fix the dessert that would add
the coupe de grace to his English meal on a Saturday afternoon
The Fidget Pie turned out great, said Ted --
"almost too pretty to eat." So we asked for his recipe to
include in the upcoming fire company cookbook.
Here's Ted's formula for what he says is the
perfect meal at his own cottage, Uneeda Rest
in the Campmeeting, or anywhere else for that
matter, especially on a cool or cloudy day.
Shropshire Fidget Pie
Traditionally this pie is not served with
vegetables, but Ted served his with dilled carrots.
3 Medium Potatoes,
peeled and finely sliced
2 Onions, sliced
2 Cooking apples,
peeled, cored and sliced
3 Slices Sweetcure gammon (bacon), de-rinded
and cut into strips
1 1/2 oz Butter
2 Teaspoon Brown
Salt and black pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Ground
nutmeg (Ted substitutes Mixed Spice. "Not allspice," he
insists; "Mixed Spice is British.")
5 fl oz Pork stock,
or vegetable stock
8 oz Shortcrust pastry
Milk or beaten egg,
Preheat the oven to
Lightly fry the
potatoes, onions and apples in the butter until just golden. Remove
with a slotted
finds this perfect for a cool, damp day at his cottage.
spoon and keep hot.
Place the gammon (bacon) in the pan and
fry lightly in the remaining fat.
Layer the gammon and the potatoes, onions and
apples in a 1 1/2 - 2 pint pie dish, seasoning with sugar, salt, pepper
and nutmeg. Pour on the stock. On a lightly floured surface, roll
out the pastry and cover the pie, trimming the edges. Make a steam hole
and decorate with the trimmings. Brush with milk or egg.
Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven to
325 °F for a further 10-15 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.
volunteers still need lots of recipes for their 2012 edition. Have a
favorite you can contribute? Send your entries now to: Mt. Gretna Fire
Company Cookbook, P.O. Box
177, Mt. Gretna, PA17064.
Friday, Dec. 2
Madelaine Gray's "Paris: As Seen by Two
Photographers" exhibit opens, . A month-long run at Lebanon
Valley Council of the Arts, 734
Willow Street, Lebanon.
Sunday, Dec. 10-11
Artist Fred Swarr
opens his studio to holiday gift shoppers, Saturday 9-5; Sunday 12-5.
Original paintings at 50% off. At 301 Bell Avenue in the Campmeeting.
The family of Dale Grundon seeks to locate
the owner of a stained glass hanging light that they believe was left
with Dale for repair. "It does not appear to have been made by
Dale," says his nephew Gaye Liddick, who
may be reached at 717-362-8783 to identify and reclaim the lamp.
Charles Herald (1938-2011)
Tom Herald was never
officially a resident of Mt.Gretna, but his
heart and soul was always here. "He was one of those people who
personify the spirit of Mt.Gretna, and only
his deteriorating health kept him away," says Tom Meredith, a
friend of long standing. He had come to Camp Mt. Gretna as a teenager,
and then, after 20 years in the
Navy, returned here
from his home in Highspire as often as
possible. A summer vacationer who loved what he called "taking in
the green" from the porch of a Campmeeting
cottage, he served on the Bible Festival Program Committee and had
first suggested bringing Elisabeth von Trapp to Mt.Gretna
after hearing her on the radio. He played his Celtic harp at one of the
Pennsylvania Chautauqua worship services for the past decade and paid
for the Sunday Bulletin covers on those occasions, noted Chancellor
Nancy Besch. He also presented the Wooden
Cross on display at every Chautauqua Sunday service. A complete obituary appears online.
unofficial community newsletter has neither any attachment to a
particular group or organization nor any political or commercial ax to
grind. Mainly, it's a retirement hobby, much as golf, fishing or
woodworking might be for others. Although it produces no income, what
it yields is a great deal of personal satisfaction, mainly because it
keeps us busy and in touch with lots of folks who have come to be good
friends. Formula for a good retirement? All things considered, it's
about as good as we could come up with.
send it by e-mail to anyone who asks, without charge and with no
expectation of anything other than a gentle prodding when we err. And
errors, we have discovered in our 70s, are important touchstones along
the pathway to lifelong learning.
don't cover everything. Some topics are better left to daily
newspapers, TV and others with greater skills, resources and insights.
speaking, we try to cover things that readers may not have already read
elsewhere. Yet since the majority of our readers live not in Mt.Gretna but in other cities,
states and countries, we sometimes summarize stories that appear in local
newspapers. We also depend on readers to alert us to news, including
obituaries, relating to present and former Mt.Gretnans.
preparing each issue, we try to keep in mind the example set by the
late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas,
who felt as if listeners had invited him into their homes. We also
value the practical wisdom of Rotary International's Four-Way Test of the Things We
Think, Say or Do: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to
all concerned?" It's a good guideline not only for writing a
newsletter but also for conducting a life.
been writing this newsletter since January 2001, usually once a month
unless we're 1.) traveling, 2.) ailing or 3.) attending to duties that,
in the interest of domestic tranquility, take a higher priority.
thank the many people who help us gather the news, take the photos,
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.,
New Cumberland, Pa. and Hilton Head, S.C.
have difficulty reading or printing the newsletter, please click on the
online version appearing at http://mtgretna.com/news.
to our friends at Gretna Computers, you can always find back
issues of this newsletter on the Web at http://mtgretna.com/news.
online archive sometimes proves helpful to people planning to move here
and 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."
Mt.Gretna Newsletter:Winner of Constant Contact 2010