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Mt. Gretna Newsletter

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

No. 128                                                                                           March 1, 2012

The Mt. Gretna Difference    

Among the best things about writing a community newsletter are the notes that come from readers. Often they have the effect of sharpening awareness, strengthening an appreciation for the things that we have in Mt. Gretna, things which sometimes seem muted elsewhere.
For example, there was the note a few years ago from a man who had moved here from the Camp Hill suburb of Harrisburg. He wrote to tell us that he'd met more people after living on the Campmeeting grounds for three months than he had in his former home town after 23 years.
We were reminded of that recently when a similar note arrived from Karrie Hontz, a master gardener and a good friend. She and her husband Ron live in Skippack, outside Philadelphia. They bought their summer cottage here in 2006. Occasionally, they make return trips during the winter to check up on their cottage. The last time they drove up, they decided to also stop in on Morris Greiner's talk at the fire hall. He was showing slides that day of his postcard collection, probably the biggest stockpile of historic Mt. Gretna postcards in existence.  
Description: and Ron, who are known to most people here as "the couple with two collies" (inset, left), looked around the hall, which was packed. Suddenly, it struck them: they realized that they knew almost everyone in the room. "If we'd gone to a similar program in Skippack, where we've lived for 16 years, we probably wouldn't have known anyone," she said.
Is it that elusive spirit which some call the Mt. Gretna difference? A spirit that nobody has ever quite adequately described, but which everybody who lives here -- or nearly everybody -- feels deeply in their bones.
Despite differences in age, experiences and individual tastes, we Mt. Gretnans are probably more alike than we realize. Birds of a feather do indeed flock together. On a per capita basis, we probably have more artists, musicians and writers per square inch than most other places. And even those of us without such talents appreciate them in others. We applaud their achievements, empathize with their strivings and celebrate their contributions to our lives. Along with a healthy respect for those who prefer solitude, we share the pleasures of being in touch with, and getting to know, our neighbors.
Many things draw us together -- daily interchanges with others at the post office, talks as we walk along the street, invitations to join others on their wraparound front porches -- all are springboards for conversations that have stickin
Description: power. Such qualities see us through tough times and remain rooted because within us all, deep down, is a yen to return to gentler times, and to carve out in our lives time for the things that matter.
A newspaper article last month cited the sudden appearance across America of a new website that hints at that idea. It's an idea to divide modern suburbs into block-sized chunks, to establish computer equivalents of neighborhood bulletin boards. Need a babysitter? Want to borrow a ladder? Need transportation to see the doctor? We in Mt. Gretna solve those needs easily. But in communities where few people know their neighbors, such tasks can become a formidable challenge. Can local electronic message boards put neighbors in touch once again? It's a step in the right direction, bringing people a step closer toward the things that have always been best about America.
Yet something is missing: Absent a community post office where neighbors greet one another daily, lacking broad front porches where children play games on a summer afternoon and porch swings where friends gather to relive shared memories, somehow even the best of suburbs are little more than, well, merely comfortable places to live. What's missing? Things that cannot be measured. Unfathomable and undefined, they nevertheless are the very qualities that Mt. Gretna seems to have in abundance. Perhaps their essence lies in those whom we come to know first as neighbors, and then as close friends. There is something about that which resonates in the soul. Something that makes a difference.  



"Five sales before the snow melts"

Something Stirring in Mt. Gretna Real Estate? 

No one's forecasting a miracle for the Mt. Gretna real estate market, but since the first of the year something's happening that never has happened before.



In a community where only 22 homes changed hands in all of last year, five were sold or went under agreement this year before Valentine's Day.
"That's unheard of in Mt. Gretna," says real estate veteran Fred Schaeffer of
Mt. Gretna Realty. "Normally we don't start selling until after the snow melts in March."
A turnaround? Maybe the start of one, say real estate veterans like Schaeffer, Emi Snavely, Joe Wentzel and Rhoda Long.
"We're not out of the woods yet," suggests Wentzel,
Penn Realty's cautiously optimistic chief. Adds Long, of Brownstone Realty, Mt. Gretna was "one of the last areas to feel the effects of a recession and therefore may be one of the first to feel the turnaround."
But she and her compatriots sound a familiar and consistent note: It's still a buyers' market. And if you're a potential seller, set your price accordingly, with the best professional advice you can find. One reason for that, says Wentzel, is that buyers



have learned to use real estate pros as advisors when they set out to purchase properties.
"It's the new age of 'buyer agents,' he says. "Their realtors do a market analysis for them and suggest what price they should pay. If your home is priced $10,000 or $30,000 over the market value, you may not even get an offer," he warns.

Schaeffer, who annually compiles the most comprehensive statistics of Mt. Gretna real estate sales (he combines both private transactions and those



  handled through the realtors' multiple listing service) says prices last year returned to a median of $188,500, matching levels of 2005. That's down about 32% from the $278,750 median price of homes sold during the peak year of 2007. In 2011, the majority of sales were for homes in the $200,000-and-under price range.     

"People still wanted to buy homes in Mt. Gretna, but they weren't willing to pay a lot to get them," says Schaeffer. Only 10 of the 22 homes sold last year were for more than $200,000. Top price paid was for a $375,000 contemporary home in the Chautauqua section,



on Temple Avenue. By contrast, during 2005-2008 top prices ranged between $429,000 and $465,000. 
Yet Mt. Gretna retains its appeal for second-home buyers, said all the real estate pros in our survey.  "Homes in Mt. Gretna are priced lower than I've seen in all my years of real estate," says
Brownstone Realty's Snavely, who enjoys a reputation as the doyenne of Mt. Gretna real estate. "People who are asking what they should do with their money are missing a great opportunity if they don't purchase a home now, with these low rates. Rather than put your money in a stock portfolio and watch it go up and down, you're better off investing in something you can see and enjoy at the same time," she says.

Is Mt. Gretna likely to become a more active vacation rental market? Not according to those we surveyed. People who buy Mt. Gretna real estate do so because they want to live here and enjoy what Snavely calls "the wonderful Mt. Gretna spirit." Echoes Scheaffer, "Those who want rental income and the headaches that go with it usually focus on foreclosures in the city of Lebanon. Those who want to enjoy life buy in Mt. Gretna." 



Another Winter, and Doodle's Still Here 

It may just be the finest Doodle portrait ever. A midwinter glimpse, taken by wildlife photographer and painter Susie Afflerbach, perhaps to reassure his fans around the world that Doodle is alive and well.

If you haven't been a regular newsletter reader, of course, what you have to know is that Doodle is the most famous rooster in Mt. Gretna. True, he's the only rooster in Mt. Gretna, but he's become a kind of walking monument ever since he Description:

                                              Susie Afflerbach photo

escaped from the back of a pickup truck here four years ago.

Evading capture -- even from a Mississippi chicken catcher who claimed that his whistle could stupefy the wiliest rooster -- Doodle has continued to skirt the law. (Yes, chickens are illegal in municipalities like ours. But nobody's pressing that -- mainly because nobody's figured out a way to catch him). So he lives life on his own terms. For a while, he even had a brief fling with a hen named Dolly. But she was soon carted off to a farm when the fetish for looking at her reflection in the plate glass door to the post office lured Doodle across the busy highway on too many occasions.  

So Doodle spends his days charming people like pizzeria waitress Rose Bair and computer guru Joe Shay into giving up their cheese curls, peanuts and sunflower seeds all through the winter. He also has convinced Peggy Seibert and Brenda Henning at the real estate office to keep on hand a supply of gourmet chicken feed, which he usually has as his first breakfast course each day. Once fed, he heads down to the pizza parlor to see what Rose has for dessert.

Carving out life on his own terms, he'll likely be memorialized with a "Ballad of Doodle" someday, with echoes from that Sinatra standard, I Did It My Way. 



Lyme Disease:

A Serious and Growing Threat, But One That We Can Control
No, they're not calling it an epidemic. But the problem of Lyme disease is now much worse than it was 15 years ago, and the number of reported cases is likely to grow in the decade ahead. 


Brown Avenue visitor last month 
                                        Lois Herr photo

Mt. Gretna, surrounded by trees and favored by both deer and white mice -- the two prime carriers of Lyme disease -- lies smack in the heart of the largest target zone for Lyme, namely, the Northeastern U.S.   

Most cases occur between May and October, so the curtain for this year's outbreak is about to go up.  

If you get infected, the first signs are usually a skin rash, but only 60% of cases show up in the familiar "bull's-eye" pattern.  

The surge of Lyme disease has been dramatic, 50 times more prevalent than it was just a few years ago. From a reported one case per hundred thousand population in the U.S. in 1998, it now has grown to 50 cases per hundred thousand. In one Timber Hills community, about half of the neighborhood's 20 homes have been affected by Lyme disease, residents say.  

Statistically speaking, most vulnerable are youngsters  

from 5 to 15 years of age and adults in the 50 and over category -- chiefly because both groups spend time outdoors, playing or doing yard work.

Although the disease can cause permanent damage if left untreated, Lyme can usually be cured within a few months says Dr. Debra Powell, a specialist at the Reading Hospital's Infectious Disease Center. Yet despite advances in treatment remedies, she believes the continued spread of Lyme disease is inevitable.


Reported cases of Lyme disease 2011: 50 times more than 15 years ago 

Has it already become an epidemic? "I wouldn't call it that," she says. "I usually think of an epidemic as something you really can't treat. And we can treat Lyme. More and more doctors are diagnosing it better, and early detection and treatment are now possible."

Nevertheless, Dr. Powell expects "the number of reportable cases to keep going up." She is familiar with Mt. Gretna -- "a beautiful area," she says -- and is also personally acquainted with the havoc that Lyme disease can play in the lives of families, especially those with pets.

We asked Dr. Powell if she used something like Frontline tick and flea control to protect her own dogs. "I do, and there's also a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs. That said, my dogs still got Lyme disease, and I have a fenced-in backyard in suburbia. Yet my dogs come in with deer ticks." 

To reduce the risk of infection, Dr. Powell recommends practical steps such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants outdoors, changing clothes once you come inside from yard work, and doing a skin check to get the tick off early. "Check yourself and your animals," she advises.  

Preventative measures, symptom descriptions and other helpful information is available from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Reference Library




Elizabeth Wein (inset), who grew up spending summers in Mt. Gretna Heights with her grandmother, Betty Flocken, interviewed by BBC Radio last month about her new book, Description: Name Verity, to be published May 15 in the United States with Kindle and audio editions available.

"One of the things that my first readers loved about Code Name Verity was how truthfully it describes the magic of having a best friend," says Ms. Wein, who now lives in Scotland with her husband and two children and has published six novels. "When people ask me to describe the book I tell them it's a 'World War II spies 'n' pilots thriller', but when they ask me what it's about, I always answer, 'Friendship.'" Read more,

click here. She hopes to return to Mt. Gretna for a visit this summer, an annual pilgrimage she makes to see the grandmother who raised her and her sister after their mother died in an automobile accident.

Gretna Theatre producing artistic director Larry Frenock, Gold Medal winner in the age 50-60 category at Pennsylvania's Keystone Games figure skating championships last month. Putting on skates for the first time at age 38, Larry has overcome not only a steep learning curve but also -- more recently -- arthritis, knee and hip problems. The latter he's solved by doing Description: jumps in a different direction -- "like learning to write with your other hand," he says. Next, it's on to the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Illinois.
Meanwhile he does what it takes to run Gretna Theatre, which last season for the first time hit three-quarters of a million dollars in revenue (and an almost equal sum in expenses). Amid budgeting, selecting talent and technical staffers, negotiating contracts, and finding sources of costumes, Larry must handle countless other details. When the "Funny Girl" script called for a $3,000 Austrian drape on stage last season, Larry bought the material, thread and supplies for $285 and sewed it himself. All in a day's work for a guy devoted to his calling and driven by his passion.

Lois Herr, one of Mt. Gretna's newest residents, has been named recipient of the 2012 Jean Royer Kerr Award by the Lancaster Women's Alliance for her work on behalf of wom
Description: throughout the area. A former teacher, AT&T executive and three-time Democratic candidate for congress, she has been a leading advocate for women's rights and is the author of a book, "Women, Power and AT&T: Winning Rights in the Workplace.'' The award will be presented March 21 at a meeting of the alliance in Lancaster. 


Honored on her 96th birthday last month: Edna Barnes, whose ties to Mt. Gretna extend to her grandparents' cottage, one of the first to be built on the Campmeeting grounds in the late 1800s. Together with her sister, whom she lived with for 89 years before Jeanette's death last July, the "Barnes Description:" have figured among Mt. Gretna's best-known, best-loved summer residents.
Born in Elizabethtown, both graduated from Elizabethtown College and taught in the public schools there for nearly four decades. Together they enjoyed careers in teaching as well as travel, painting and music. Visits from former students as well as friends with whom she played the viola with the Hershey, Lancaster and Harrisburg symphonies continue to brighten Edna's days at the single home she occupies at Masonic Village. She also enjoys showing visitors her private art gallery (formerly a garage no longer needed after Edna sold her car) which holds paintings and other art and craft works that she and Jeanette created.
The sisters sold their immaculately-kept Mills Avenue cottage in 2008. The following year, artist Eva Bender made it the cover illustration of Mt. Gretna's Summer Calendar. A nearby tree, planted in their honor by friends and neighbors, serves as a tribute to their contributions to Mt. Gretna life -- including its theater, historical society and fire department. Neighbors looked forward to their return each summer.
From their kitchen window, the sisters always acknowledged friendly waves from people like Madelaine Gray, the photographer and neighbor, who delighted in taking baskets of freshly baked blueberry muffins over to their porch for afternoon tea and conversations about their mutual travels and adventures. Among other Mt. Gretna friends to join Edna's birthday celebration were Judy and Victor Bojko, Mary Kopala, Barbara Hofsommer, Barbara Mark, Fred Buch, David Bronstein and Rupert Bullard.

On the way to Mt. Gretna Nursery School after her shadow-sighting stint outside the Penn Realty office last month, Penny the Groundhog ran into two of the school's graduates,


Before the big event,a warmup

the Kosoff girls. Sadie, 6, and Lucy, 8. Since this is Penny's seventh year, they'd seen her during their undergrad years, of course. So in this unscheduled warmup the questions were few. Thus primed, Penny strolled across the street to face lurking doubters who over past years have asked some tough questions: "Why does a groundhog need galoshes?" one little boy wanted to know on a snowy February day last year. Then there was that other young man, bent on exposing a fraud several years ago, who declared: "There's a man inside that suit. I know. I've been to Disney World!"


Whew! No pesky guys.

This year, however, all the nursery schoolers were girls, who asked, well, girl things: What do groundhogs eat? Do they swim? Does Penny have children? Will she go back in her burrow since she saw her shadow?
No, it wasn't exactly Meet The Press. And don't count on girls to always ask gentler questions. But this year the interrogation was, like the winter itself, mild. Spring must be just around the corner.



Coming this summer: a Farmers' Market and. . .

Maybe Even Weekly Deliveries of Fresh Organic Vegetables   

Our report last month on plans for a new organic foods venture topped The Mt. Gretna Newsletter's list of best-read articles in February.  


Home delivery of fresh organic vegetables this summer? Yes, if 20 Mt. Gretnans sign up.

What stirs the interest? In part, it's the announcement that Phil Stober, who traces his ancestral roots to the Mt. Gretna community of Stoberdale, will launch an organic foods stand along Route 117 in the heart of Mt. Gretna this summer.
But a Saturday farmers' market is just part of it. Also stirring talk and growing interest are plans for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) service deliveries to Mt. Gretna residents. That is, of course, provided enough customers -- at least 20 -- sign up to make the plan work.
A similar idea, tried a few years ago by a Lancaster County organic farm, netted 19 Mt. Gretna customer contracts. For Stober and his colleagues -- who launched
Barefoot Organics at Greystone Farm just five miles away in 2009 -- that gives rise to optimism.
His venture has enthusiastic supporters. Local cheerleaders (and the first two Mt. Gretna customers to sign up) are Timber Hills resident Evelyn Koppel and Susan Wood of Mt. Gretna Heights. They'll divide a CSA "share," splitting the weekly delivery of fresh vegetables between their two households.
Details of the CSA program, including pricing, appear on the
website for Stober's organic farm, located betweem Rocherty and Zinns Mill roads in West Cornwall Township.
What's behind all the excitement?
"Organic gardening is healthy for the soil and for us," says Evelyn. In addition to reducing toxicity levels in the soil and streams, she feels that the locally grown food is not only fresher but also "we know more about what has been done in the growing." She points out that imported foods can come from countries that use pesticides banned in the U.S. Moreover, she adds, "I don't want to eat meat or eggs from animals that spend their lives under cruel conditions or have been fed things that I wouldn't want in my food."
In addition to organic produce, the Barefoot Organics website also has details of the full 21-week season, including offerings such as artisanal raw milk cheese, incremental fruit, and eggs from pasture-raised hens.
His great-uncle, Jake Stober, ran the Mt. Gretna Hideaway in the 1930s. "He'd get a kick out of his great-nephew bringing another much-needed service to the Mt. Gretna community," jokes Stober. "In his case, it was beer. In mine, fresh, locally grown organic produce."
Stober's great-great grandfather was also a farmer. "It wasn't called 'organic' in the 1890s," he says, "but it was working in harmony with nature, and that's how we're doing it now."  


From Manhattan to a farm near Mt. Gretna

From their farm, Stober, his wife Barbara and field operations director Sean Huie and their crew already serve restaurants and 130 families in New York City, where they lived until a few years ago when Stober switched to farming after a business career in marketing. They plan to expand their enterprise to include restaurant customers in Philadelphia and other areas as well.
What drives his vision for a 42-acre, USDA-certified organic farm in the rural countryside of Lebanon County? As Stober sees it, the world's food supply is threatened. The world food chain's variety of plants and livestock has diminished greatly since the Industrial Revolution, he says. About 75% of that food supply now depends on 12 plant and five animal species. Moreover, "six big corporations control 98% of the world's seed stock," says Stober.  He also shudders at the thought of an earthquake that could destroy aqueducts and disrupt water supplies in California, which provides half the nation's produce. That event is predicted, he points out, and "it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a hydrologist to figure out what's going to happen when the 'Big One' hits. Especially," he adds wistfully, "if the last remaining tillable soil in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey has been paved over with strip malls and subdivisions."
His efforts alone, of course, won't prevent that. But as the Helen Keller quote cited on that bronze plaque at the Campmeeting entrance says: "I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do something that I can do."



Epicenter of Mt. Gretna?

It's down the street and around the corner. . .

Maybe this is something that only a guy who writes up the news of Mt. Gretna every month would notice, but it's probably impossible to realize just how much of life spins around a single pivotal point: the volunteer fire company known as "Station 38."

Take this month, for example:



Fill your bottles with dimes, asks Avery Dowd

  • The ladies who brighten these pages with photo reminders are out again, asking you to fill those water bottles in their annual "Dimes in a Bottle" campaign to help put a $400,000 burn-the-mortgage effort over the top. (Yes, they're getting close, but they need your help.)
  • When the giant community-wide porch sale arrives on Memorial Day weekend, organizers at the fire company will open those giant bays at the newly expanded fire hall where their fire trucks are housed. Inside will be donated treasures that volunteers are now collecting. Have items to donate? Call or email Laura Feather, 964-3607. All money raised will buy protective firefighter gear which, you may be surprised to learn, is priced at $1,875 per set.  



Fueling events like this, a $15,000 matching funds offer.

  • And keep in mind that tempting invitation to match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $15,000 to outfit a new kitchen in the fire hall -- the hub of countless breakfasts, Italian dinners, pig roasts and other soirees that raise both funds and fun levels.
  • Then there's this Sunday's all-you-can-eat-for-as-much-as-you-care-to-donate breakfast at the fire hall. Most folks look on it as an opportunity to stuff as much as they can into the firefighter's boot as they enter, sample fare prepared by volunteers who ought to be awarded angel wings, and then share a morning with friends they don't get a chance to see often enough. The fun starts at 8 am March 4 and runs through noon.
  • Then there's that new cookbook, soon to go to press. Mt. Gretna's best cooks have contributed all new recipes, replacing an edition that sold out three times and became one of the most sought-after Mt. Gretna collectibles on eBay. Now the cookbook chefs have everything they need for their cookbook except what to call it: "Mt. Gretna Eats" was the previous title. Now there's even a contest to name the new version. Send your suggestions to Karen Lynch.

Who's behind all this? You'll probably never meet them all personally. But they're the people who answer fire calls at all hours. People who plan the special events. And people who raise money to keep volunteers equipped and trained.


Volunteer of Year Laura

Most were assembled at the Annual Volunteers Dinner last month, and a few of them were honored, including fire company secretary Laura Feather (inset, with president Joe Shay), who organizes everything from bridge groups to meeting minutes and dozens of other things for the firefighters. "After they gave me the award, I learned they now expect me to wash and wax the new fire engine," joked Laura.
Hers is typical of the dedication that powers the Station 38 team. For those who were honored in this and previous years, as well as others whose recognition is still to come in the years ahead, all may be sure of one thing: the appreciation of everyone who lives in Mt. Gretna -- a community of tall trees and wooden structures -- runs deep.



Big Day in the Big Apple
A Go-Where-You-Want, Do-What-You-Want Outing for April
Do people always wait 'till the last minute to sign up for a bus trip?
Not if they're smart, say savvy travelers.
Eager beavers and early birds benefit when they shun their procrastinator tendencies and jump on opportunities.


"Go to Gotham for a day in April"

Coming up Wednesday, April 18 is another New York City bus trip to benefit those who act quickly and, also, the firefighters of Mt. Gretna, who benefit from the proceeds once again.  This, in fact, is the fourth New York City trip that Rhoda Long has lined up, but this one comes with a twist: It's a "do as you please" trip, one she calls "Springtime in the Big Apple."
Details? The bus leaves Mt. Gretna at 7:30 am on April 18. That should give you all day in New York, from around 10:15 am or so until early evening to do what you like, where you like. Departure time from New York is 7:30 pm. The cost: $50.

Don't tarry, says Rhoda, who frets that some people will be disappointed if they wait until the last minute. Call her now to reserve your seats (717-304-0248) or, if you prefer, email:


It'll stretch over two days this year

A Community-wide Grand Illumination to Honor the Nation's Birthday

A Grand Illumination in Mt. Gretna to celebrate the nation's birthday again this year?

Count on it, says Karl Gettle, a man who helped shape the Art Show into a community tradition more than 30 years ago aDescription: now hopes to do the same with Independence Day.

This year, the illumination of homes and cottages here will take place over two days -- Tuesday, July 3 and Wednesday, July 4.
"That will give people more time to enjoy the lights," says Gettle.

In addition to brightly lit cottages throughout the historic sections of Mt. Gretna and illuminated homes from Timber Bridge to Mt. Gretna Heights, last year's festivities included a theme: decorated liberty bells, hand-painted with the distinctive touches of individual homeowners.

Will there be a theme for 2012? Yes, says Gettle, whose Grand Illumination committee is still working out the details. Ideas under consideration include decorated garden flags, replicas of Uncle Sam, and that familiar symbol of the Mt. Gretna lifestyleDescription:, the iconic rocking chair, without which no wraparound porch seems complete.

"People have told me that they want this celebration to grow and become a year-after-year tradition in Mt. Gretna," says Gettle, who admits that he, too, would like to continue to lead the effort for a few more years. This, despite the call of family concerns. Description: son-in-
law was recently deployed for the second time to Kuwait. "We're trying to stick closer to our daughter and two grandsons, to spend more time with them when Daddy's away. So I don't want to tie myself down with too many projects. But enough people have called and encouraged us to keep going, so I said 'okay'."

Among those helping him pull this year's Grand Illumination together is Barbara Kleinfelter, who will be helping residents prepare their decorations through lessons scheduled at the Hall of Philosophy on four Tuesday evenings in June.

"Everyone's in agreement that Mt. Gretna should take a lead in celebrating the nation's birthday," says Gettle. "And people are more up for it this year than ever." 


Guidelines for Mt. Gretna Residents:

When power outages occur, call Met-Ed: 


Met-Ed gives top priority to outages affecting the greatest numbers of people. Your call helps pinpoint the scope of an outage but may also speed repair crews to Mt. Gretna.     

Call even though neighbors might also have reported the outage, says Met Ed.   

During extreme hot or cold weather, the Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter in power outages lasting 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, pets not allowed.



With a tip o' the Irish cap

Lakeside Residents Set Out to Have Fun this Month

Maybe it's just because the winters are warmer. Maybe it's because they're tired of winters, period. But the folks who live on the lake side of town have rarely seen anything like this.
It began over a year ago with a midwinter "meet the neighbors" gathering at the Timbers.  
That happy event sprouted others, including a community-wide garden party at the Valley Road home of Dan and Pat Hottenstein last September.  
This year, another Timbers gathering, in January. And coming this month,
Description: St. Patrick's Day celebration for everyone who lives north of Route 117.
It'll take place at the Timbers Restaurant. Following a newly established tradition that seems to work pretty well and get out a crowd, everyone makes their own reservations, orders from the menu and pays their own bill. The difference this time? An unmistakable theme, wrapped in the wearin' of the green with Irish sayings, name tags that are actually pieces of a get-to-know-who's-here puzzle, and plenty of Irish cheer. The proceedings get underway Friday, March 16 at 5 pm. (And reservations -- 964-3601 -- are needed by Tuesday, March 13.)
Organizers emphasize that everyone's invited to take part, including folks in Timber Bridge, Conewago Hill, and all the Timber Hills neighborhoods including Lake View Drive, Timber Cove, Timber Lane, Village Lane and Village Cove. "That means everybody on this side of the lake," says Deb Haney, one of those setting up the event. 

Description: activities planned this year? They hope to sponsor a community-wide garage sale in April, a game night in May, and maybe a private community-wide network on the Internet for those who'd like to keep up with all that's going on in the neighborhood -- including lost and found pets, needs for babysitters or transportation assistance and other neighborhood messages.
In terms of its scope, nothing like this has ever happened before. What's it all mean for Mt. Gretna's lakeside region? Probably the start of a new era of neighborliness, closeness and fun for everyone who calls it home. 




13 Years ago the journey to a dream began for Mike Remel, pastor of the Mt. Gretna UnDescription: Methodist Church. That's when he first heard the call to the ministry. Last month, after divinity studies at Philadelphia's Palmer Theological Seminary and some 200 pages he had written as part of that process, he received word he had been approved by the UMC Board of Ordained Ministry to become an Elder. "It wasn't easy," says Pastor Mike, "but it was -- and is -- totally worth it." He'll be formally ordained at an evening service to be held Friday, May 18 at the Philadelphia Expo Center (near Phoenixville and Valley Forge). 


2,000 Number of people estimated to read The Mt. Gretna Newsletter. "Estimated?" We're really not sure how many people forward their copies to friends and relatives. Take, for Description:, Pat and Dorothy Bowman, the aunt and uncle of Lebanon Chamber of Commerce director Larry Bowman and his wife Kathy Wall, Campmeeting residents who moved here a few years ago.

Pat and Dorothy, who moved to Mt. Gretna in 1950 and lived on Eighth Avenue, are now making new friends at the Elmcroft Personal Care Home in Lebanon.  Every month, Kathy takes them a copy of the newsletter, which she dutifully prints out from her computer. "They pour over it with much interest," she says. "Then they pass it around to other residents at Elmcroft, some who are former Mt. Gretna residents and others who just enjoy reading the news of Mt. Gretna," says Kathy. "Uncle Pat told me today that the October 2011 issue is still floating around."  



Mama Mia! Mt. Gretnans Rediscover an Old Favorite 

If the desserts coming out of Mt. Gretna's Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry Restaurant these days look scrumptious, there's a reason. Actually, two!

The first is that the caf?'s top cook (aside from owner Ken Shertzer himself) is pastry specialist Angela Licata, who just Description: to live atop the hill on Batdorf Avenue. The second is Amy Wolfe, Ken's  married daughter, who helps manage the restaurant and runs her own photography business. She has a knack for making Vistorta Torta di Cioccolato (a chocolate flourless cake) look like it jumped right out of an oven rather than a Canon 5D Mark II.

Add to that, their love for all things that come out of Italy, where Amy and husband Alex vacationed with friends last September. Moreover, Angela is married to an Italian, so she has a trove of family recipes, skills and secrets. Add all that together and you'll know why Authentic Italian Nights at Le Sorelle are so popular.                                          


                                Amy Wolfe photos

Last year's was a sellout ("the portions were perfect, allowing us to enjoy the entire meal" wrote a Hershey patron), and the one coming Friday, March 30 is likely to be as well. So it's probably wise to make reservations early.  

Among the temptations will be appetizers like Pomodori a Riso and Sicilian stuffed mushrooms (Funci Chini); first course choices of Pasta E Fagioli or Risotto al Limone; main courses like Chicken Marsala, a Florentine style Cod  (Merluzzo alla Fiorentina), and Sicilian Veal Rolls (Involtini all Benedettina). The full menu is posted online and choices must be made in advance: 269-3876 or email  

Le Sorelle has quickly become the No. 1 Secret Mt. Gretnans have rediscovered in the past few years, largely because of its expanded menu, a customer focus that allows credit cards, cooks and servers intent on making the meals memorable, plus a convenient serve-yourself-whenever-you're-ready-for-refills bar offering coffee, tea and lemonade.  

"Making food for people has a certain satisfaction, especially when they love it," says Amy. "We like to try new dishes and recipes, so our specials are always changing."

The restaurant's winter hours, continuing until Memorial Day, are Fridays-Sundays 8 am to 1 pm. Starting Memorial Day, they'll switch to a summer schedule, Tuesdays-Sundays 8 am to 1 pm.  



Cottages You Won't See in the Chautauqua

Glimpses of Ireland on Tap at the Winterites This Month 

No, it's not exactly like the cottages you find along Harvard Avenue, but in Galway Bay, Ireland, it fits into the landscape perfectly fine.
That, in fact, is where Peggy O'Neil, Kathy Snavely and Peggy McGuire intend to take you this month when the Winterites assemble March 6 at the Mt. Gretna fire hall.
Ms. O'Neil, pictured outside the entrance to this prehistoric dwelling shaped like


Barely 5', Peggy fits right in.

a beehive, says not much is known about the people who once occupied these stone-laid-on-stone buildings. They were built perhaps two thousand years ago to be windproof and waterproof, yet without a trace of mortar. "They must have been awfully small," says the diminutive Peggy, who barely tops the 5' mark herself.
Yet the Winterites audience is in for more.  

"Do you know about nettles?" asked Peggy McGuire, the Campmeeting resident who calls herself the "ultimate telecommuter." Although she lives in Pennsylvania, she's a researcher for the University of Tennessee's literacy studies center in Knoxville. Nettles, she will explain, grow wild in the west of Ireland. "They sting the skin brutally if you touch them," she says, "but they make a wonderful and healthy soup -- or a very effective fertilizer." (Then she adds, with a wink, "Do you get the idea that my stories might be a bit different from other Irish travelers?")


McGuire: Nettles & wine

Ms. McGuire spent a few weeks recently working with her cousin, who owns an Irish farm. "We also spent a little time lounging around and drinking great wine, watching the French Open," she says.

Joining them will be Kathy Snavely, an adjunct professor at Harrisburg Area Community College (and one of the top 100 marketing professors on Twitter) who also heads the Chautauqua Summer Programs series.  

What Kathy likes best about Ireland? Desserts. Especially sticky bread and toffee puddings and Pavlova, a meringue-based treat. She, husband Cliff, and Peggy O'Neil made the trip through Ireland together, including one popular tourist stop where Cliff nearly left Ms. O'Neil behind. (Kathy can't wait 'til Peggy shares that story next week.)  

Winterites sessions start at 1 pm on first Tuesdays October through April. Now in their 62nd year and enjoying a sprightly renaissance, the gatherings are open to all residents -- guys, too -- throughout Mt. Gretna.  



Gretna Theatre Opens Auditions for Summer Series

Open auditions for Gretna Theatre's Summer Theater Series, 10 am-6 pm, March 3. Signups begin at 9 am at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church. Seeking triple threat actors/singers/dancers for the musicals listed, and character actors for the play and musicals to portray ages 45-65.

Shows are "Little Women, The Musical," "Grease," "Burt & Me," "Meet Me in St. Louis" and Agatha Christie's "A Murder is Announced." Also seeking two young girls, one to play age 6 and one age 12, both excellent actors/singers, for "Meet Me in St. Louis." Also seeking design and technical staff. Email resume to For details:



Description: annual appeal for help
Yes, they're looking for volunteers at the Playhouse this summer, lots of them in fact.
Gretna Music needs ushers, artist hospitality, box office, boutique and administrative volunteers. Call 361-1508 or e-mail Michael Murray at
If you'd like to work at the concession stand, call Gary Shrawder at 272-2284 or email him at:
To check in for volunteer assignments with Gretna Theatre, call Renee Krizan, 964-3322 or



Elmer Seiger, Jr. (1927-2012)
Some Mt. Gretnans paint, others play music, a few sing, and still others write. Elmer Seiger as far as we know did none of these. Yet he was as sparkling a presence during the more than 20 years he lived here as any who have walked these streets and greeted their neighbors. The essence of Mt. Gretna itself, a reassuring, friendly, and reasonable man of good cheer who made the day
Description: a little brighter each time he came into view. He also loved this place. And he often returned for visits after he and Ruth, his wife of 65 years, moved to Pleasant View Nursing Home a few miles away. "I'd move back to Mt. Gretna tomorrow if I could," he told us a few weeks ago when we ran into him during breakfast at the pizza parlor.
Six years have passed since he left, but the twinkle in his eye was still there. A man who loved Mt. Gretna. A navy veteran and a retiree of the VA Hospital in Lebanon, he died Feb. 22. In every sense of the word, Elmer Seiger was one of us.
Memorial contributions may be made to GSH Hospice, PO Box 1281, Lebanon, PA 17042. A full obituary appears



Updates & Stuff to 

Post on

The Fridge









Sunday, March 4

Breakfast Buffet at the Fire Hall

All you can eat for a donation you stuff in a fireman's boot (just inside the door). The food's great, the friends you'll see even better. And your generous donations help "burn the mortgage" for the firefighters; 8 am to Noon. 

Bluegrass Music by the Fire

Governor Dick Nature Center, with Patsy Kline and others. Bring your instrument. All welcome., 1-4 pm.

Sunday, March 11

Teacher Appreciation Service at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church Saturday, March 17 to honor all Sunday School teachers and their assistants, at the 10 am service. The church will also start a new Sunday class in March for four-year-olds and kindergarteners. (There's already a class for first- and second graders, plus another for third grade on up. What about those fifth graders? It's coming, just as soon as they get some more volunteer teachers.)

History of Mt. Gretna and Governor Dick Park, 2 pm. A presentation by Diana Sprucebank. Walk to historical sites afterwards, weather permitting.  

Friday, March 16

A "Meet the Neighbors" party (with a St. Patrick's Day theme) for everyone on the lake side of Route 117. At the Timbers Restaurant, starting 5 pm. Make your own reservations and pay your own bill. Call 964-3601 (by March 13, please).

Saturday, March 17

Pablo Ziegler Trio for Nuevo Tango, the second in Gretna Music's Intersections series exploring classical music and dance at Elizabethtown College. 7:30 pm.

Saturday, March 24 

Gretna Theatre Broadway Bus Trip "GHOST," the musical. Call 964-3627 for tickets ($175; not available online).

Monday, March 26

LAST DAY to register for Philadelphia Orchestra Bus Trip (Sunday, April 29). Call Gretna Music, 361-1508, or visit

Wednesday, March 28 

The Gathering Place Luncheon  Meet friends old and new at this popular monthly event for everyone in Mt. Gretna, at noon. Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church.

Mid-Week Lenten Worship Service, followed by an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet following the 7 pm service.  Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church

Thursday, March 29  

 Easter Egg Dye Night at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church. Think that only children have fun? Wait until you see expressions on the faces of parents, grandparents, and their friends at this annual event. Warning: Wear old clothes and don't be surprised if palms and fingers remain multi-colored for days afterwards. Starts at 6:30 pm.

Saturday, March 31

Annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Chautauqua Playground, starting at 11 am. Chances are, it'll all be over five minutes later as 50 or so youngsters scoop up 360 or so eggs faster than ice cream disappears on a 93-degree day at the Jigger Shop. Rumors persist that the Easter Bunny himself may make an appearance, sources say. Rain date: April 7.

Don't forget: Check Mt. Gretna's new year-round online calendar for events coming up in the year ahead. Send listings for the new online version to Jennifer Veser Besse (


Other newsletters of interest:

Mt. Gretna Updates -- Issued as warranted to alert local residents to such matters as temporary road closings, utility repairs, shelter advisories for adverse weather 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 -- E-mailed updates on concert events, schedule changes and other news. See "Join Our Mailing List" at 

Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society Newsletter -- 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 -- 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,