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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 13, Tuesday, February 5, 2002


Normally around this time of year, Mount Gretnans worry about snow piling up on rooftops. But this winter, water --- specifically the lack of it --- has jumped into the forefront of concerns. Not just in the Heights, where a major well collapsed New Year’s Eve, but throughout the entire community as water levels now are far below normal.

In terms of rainfall, we’ve been running at deficit levels for four of the past six years, says Bill Care. Some wells monitored around the state by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection are at the lowest levels ever recorded. (See DEP website And the National Weather Service “isn’t painting a bright future,” adds Linda Bell, who joined Bill in Harrisburg last week at a DEP-sponsored conference on the topic. Forecasters predict the drought may continue for months.

Although all of Mt. Gretna’s wells are stable (except for the Heights’), the rainfall deficit, which was 6.75 inches last November, now stands at 13 inches. We’ve had only minimal precipitation during the all-important recharge periods of fall and winter. “The bottom line,” adds Linda, “is that we all have to learn to be more cautious.”

In Mt. Gretna Heights, an 80-year-old well that served 69 homes collapsed for the second time in 15 years, leaving residents without water. Tankers began making emergency deliveries as neighbors from the Mt. Gretna Authority and Mt. Gretna’s fire department rushed to supply 16,000 gallons in the first two days. Meanwhile, Heights residents started formulating plans to dig a
new eight-inch well. While they await the drilling rig’s arrival, residents must continue to boil water, using about 11,000 gallons a day under emergency restrictions.

The well project will cost an estimated $45,000 to $50,000. But the crisis, says Heights president Keith Volker, “had the effect of helping everyone realize that ours is a small community, and we need to work together. Without the support of our neighbors across Pinch Road, I don’t know where we would be today.”


No topic we’ve reported on has drawn more comment from our readers than the proposed new Nature Center at Governor Dick Park. Last month, as you may have heard, the park’s board vetoed the idea of a cellular tower to help fund the Center’s day-to-day operations (more on that below). But they remained steadfast in their decision to go
Nature center (cont.)
ahead with the 2,200 sq. ft. building and a parking lot for 25 cars. Trees have been removed for the center and a 700-ft. long access drive off Pinch Road. Officials expect to get started with construction around June and seem to be favoring architectural plans that call for a log cabin motif.

The next board meeting is scheduled Feb. 21 at the West Cornwall Township building, 73 South Zinns Mill Rd., at 7 p.m. About 70 persons attended last month’s meeting. Board member Carol McLaughlin, puzzled by the large turnout, wonders why only a few people seemed interested in the nature center when public hearings were held two years ago. “That’s the time,” she says, “when people should have come in to voice their opinion.” She doesn’t expect the board to now change its mind.

Meanwhile, most of the correspondence we’ve received from readers has been opposed. Most simply don’t see the need for another nature center with the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area only a few miles away. Many others, even though they understand that the land is held by a private foundation, nevertheless yearn to see it remain largely untouched.

Carol says the board expects that donations and additional grants will fund the center’s ongoing operations. A $250,000 public grant awarded more than two years ago will pay for the construction. No new roads or trails will be built, she says, although one existing trail will be made handicapped accessible. Nor is logging planned, other than that required to prepare the construction site. Any additional tree removals will be carried out simply to keep the forest healthy, and under the supervision of a licensed forester.
“Nobody on the board,” she says, “has any intention of doing anything other than what Clarence would have liked.” Clarence Schock, founder of the Sico Corporation, left the 1,105 acre park in trust following his death in 1955.

Carol says that girl and boy scout troops, the Audubon Society and a Lebanon County conservation group have already asked to use the nature center. “It will be available for anyone concerned with birds, trees, foliage or anything in the forest. The building will also house some maintenance equipment as well as writings, pictures and artifacts bequeathed by Clarence,” she says.

The e-mail address for the Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick is Officials point out that although that e-mail address “is not particularly intended as a forum, any e-mails received will be passed on to the board.” They request that written comments be sent to 73 South Zinns Mill Rd., Lebanon, Pa.17042. Joanne Tucker is coordinating a group opposing the plan and invites others to join by contacting


Those planning Mt. Gretna’s summer premier May 25 are often thrilled by the superb antique, classic and items of value that donors sometimes contribute to the auction (which helps fund, among other things, the Summer Arts

“We’re so pleased with the quality of donations,” says coordinator Trish Myers. She says that more and more local people are coming to look upon the summer premier as a “reunion,” a chance for all residents, year ‘rounders and summer residents alike, to get together before the summer hubbub begins. Planners hope to have all the items for this year’s premier collected by Mar. 31.

Dale Grundon, we hear, is creating something really special for the auction. Last year, his distinctive prairie lamp brought $1,000. (See


Plans for a community-owned cell phone site are still very much alive, despite the Governor Dick board’s decision to reject all cellular proposals. Mt. Gretna fire company president Keith Volker says two alternative sites are being considered, both on Mt. Gretna’s north ridge. Private landowners are looking into Keith’s proposal to share revenues from a cell tower that could be financed by the fire company and two or three other non-profit organizations.

One of the sites being evaluated is located next to the tower on Television Hill; the other is along Mine Road, west of the television tower. Keith is establishing a company to help communities benefit from cell tower revenues in the type of public-private ventures that now are springing up across the country. He points out that cellular revenues could help keep funds flowing to local non-profit groups for decades.


We hear from readers all over the world these days, all with memories tied to Mt. Gretna.

One of them (who may well be the oldest living Mt. Gretna native) is Kate Hicks Troup, sister of Mt. Gretna’s Peggy Byford and daughter of National Guard commander Col. William Hicks. Born here in 1922, she returns every summer “to renew my spirit” and to see old friends. “I guess what surprises me most,” she says, “is that Mt. Gretna is still much the same.”

As a young girl, she once roller-skated to Colebrook, but her true love seems to have been the Playhouse. “We knew all the players because they came back every year,” she says. “Margaret Mansfield never seemed any older, year after year. They belonged, and were always magical to me.” She later studied theater arts at Bryn Mawr before marrying Edward, whose family owned a summer cottage on Brown Avenue. They had three children.

She now lives by the sea in Carlsbad, Calif. where, fully attuned to the computer age, she receives this newsletter, which appears to revive fond memories. She recalls winters
here, with snow falling on a cannon on the lawn outside her father’s office. “Everything
is gone now. The house. Daddy’s office. The canteen. The cannon. My father was the best man I ever knew,” she says.


“Our job isn’t just to serve snacks and refreshments,” say Trish and Bruce Myers, who (among many other volunteer duties) operate the Playhouse concession stand. “Visitors often get their first impressions of Mt. Gretna from people behind the counter,” she says, “and that’s the spirit we volunteers always try to keep in mind.”

Trish and Bruce would like you to join them in a couple of brain-storming sessions devoted to exploring ideas for improving the service the concession stand provides to theater-goers on behalf of the entire community.

Or if you’d simply like to volunteer at the concession stand from time to time this summer (profits benefit Mt. Gretna organizations), contact them at


Fundraisers have passed the halfway mark of their $20,000 goal to renovate the Heights Community Building and make it a summer arts
center benefiting all of Mt. Gretna. In addition to cultural activities, the facility (with kitchen tables and chairs for over 100 visitors, a porch, children’s playground, and basketball court) will also be available for wedding receptions, family reunions, rehearsals and other events. To reserve space, contact Dick Steinhauer,, tel. 964-2362. Donations should be made payable to Mt. Gretna Heights Community Building, P.O. Box 391, Mt. Gretna, Pa. 17064.

IN BRIEF: (45 Words or Less)

[] Mt. Gretna revelers counted down to midnight New Year’s Eve while trombonist Jim Erdman (as he has for over 50 years) played Auld Lang Syne and Les Miller lowered from a Temple Avenue flagpole the artistically fashioned Turkey Buzzard created by Trish and Bruce Myers

[] Photos on the Internet show out-of-towners just how much snow has fallen on Mt. Gretna rooftops at Current photos on the web, courtesy of Dale Grundon, are from the Jan. 19 storm. Dale promises updates as new snowfalls occur.

[] First issue of “The Pennsylvania Chautauquan” goes in the mail this week. This delightful newsletter, the handiwork of Peggy O’Neil and Peter Hewitt, reports on upcoming summer programs, a stockholders’ survey, and final plans for the Carnegie Avenue project.

[] Susan Bowman and Sandy Devlin volunteered to coordinate the Men’s Club’s Art Show Breakfast, continuing a 21-year tradition made easier, they say, by the eager, experienced, and amiable folks who help out each year.

[] Entries must arrive by Mar. 15 to be included in this year’s summer arts community calendar. Deborah Hursts,, is collecting the events notices.

[]Free 3-line Business Directory listings with web addresses will be added to 2002’s Summer Calendar. Arts Council coordinator Robin Volker,, tel. 964-3234, wants to include Mt. Gretna businesses as well as those located elsewhere but operated by local residents, who help support activities here.

[] The Jigger Shop again won WITF magazine’s “Best ice cream in Central Pennsylvania” reader survey award. Al and Sue Pera’s Cornerstone Coffee House in Camp Hill also took top honors in their category. Both businesses have been consistent award winners.

[] Donations held steady in this year’s Mt. Gretna fire company fund drive. Other area fire stations reported a drop in donations, following the huge outlays contributors gave immediately after Sept. 11.

[] Last year’s art show food vendors all want to come back again this year. Their distinctive offerings were a clear, unmistakable hit at the show, says coordinator Linda Bell.

[] Deer-auto accidents have tapered off after the hunting and mating seasons, say Cornwall Borough police. Better weather so far this winter, officials say, is contributing to a below-average rate of accidents involving only vehicles.

[] The U.S.D.A. says black buzzards are the hardest to get rid of. Dale Grundon believes that’s the stubborn species still showing up occasionally, chiefly along Brown Avenue. Volunteers armed with “bird bangers” are now nudging them out of the trees and out of town.

[] Forty-one persons turned out last month to form a watershed association for Conewago Creek, which has its headwaters in the Mt. Gretna area. Matt Royer (, tel. 651-0978, heads the group. Next meeting is Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., Londonderry Twp. Building.

[] Biologists found Conewago Creek too polluted to sustain fish and other aquatic life, says Royer, mostly because of agricultural runoff. His new watershed group hopes to gain public funds and help landowners with voluntary stream improvements.

[] WITF-FM featured Mt. Gretna last week on a morning news program about cultural spots in Central Pennsylvania. News director Damon Boughamer tells us he’ll post the interviews (with Dale, Carl Ellenberger, Jack Bitner and Lancaster artist Paula Egolf) this week on the station’s website,

[] A reader urges Lake Conewago ice skaters to read safety tips found in the article So far this winter, the lake has been frozen for only a few days. Nevertheless, the skaters were out!

[] Another reader asks if anyone has a Mt. Gretna cookbook, sought by a friend whose sister would like to use the recipes in her restaurant. If you can help, contact Kassie Chapman, 102 Maple Ave., in the Heights.

11.6 Total snowfall (inches) recorded so far. Total for 1994 (when the Playhouse collapsed) was 89 inches.

71 Ranking of Mt. Gretna art show in Sunshine Artist magazine’s Top 200 “fine art shows in the U.S.A.” listings.

4 Judges coming to Mt. Gretna in April to select the artists who will exhibit at the 28th annual art show. Deadline for entries is Apr. 1.

2 People who can squeeze into a snowplow-equipped backhoe, if one of them sits on the wheelwell while the other runs the plow, says Linda Bell, who took driving lessons from Bill Care during the season’s first major snowfall last month.

5 Counties seen on a clear day from the 66 ft. Governor Dick tower, 1,120 feet above sea level: (Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Dauphin and Berks)

1,350 Feet of firehose needed to connect Heights residents with Mt. Gretna Authority’s water supply during the January lst emergency.

19,000 Gallons of water normally used per day in the Heights. Under emergency restrictions, residents are using only 11,000 gallons a day.

13 Mt. Gretna-related items (including post cards depicting Kauffman’s Store, boating on Lake Conewago, the Mt. Gretna Park, and Rifle Range) for sale on last weekend.

8 Volunteers who turned out for a recent Mt. Gretna fire company call at 3 a.m. “More people are volunteering now. We’re delighted,” says company vice president (and Mt. Gretna mayor) Joe Shay.

50 Approximate size of stubborn buzzard flock that returns from time to time to favorite perches in Mt. Gretna. (See “In Brief” above).
Numbers (cont.)
124 Elegant summer and winter Mt. Gretna scenes posted by photographer Rodney Cammauf, 102 Temple Ave., at (Our thanks to former mayor Hoagy Hogentogler, now living in Florida, who called this site to our attention.)

10 Normal life expectancy (in years) of a fire engine. Mt. Gretna’s has been running for nearly 20 years and will be replaced when a fund drive kicks off next year.

3 More weeks before Comcast, finally, introduces its cable Internet service here. Mt. Gretna Computer Consulting hopes to help residents get set up with the new, faster connections. Tel. 964-1106.

3 Homes now for sale in Mt. Gretna, up 50 percent from our last report.


The New York Times does it every day, so we figured we ought to start doing it, too. That is, run a corrections column for times when we goof, as we did last time in listing Gary Shrawder as “Greg”. Gary good-naturedly accepted our apologies, but we’re guessing that it won’t be the last mistake we ever make. So keep your eyes peeled on this column for more merry mishaps.

“Exercise is insurance for the quality of life, never mind the quantity of years.”
-- Garnett “Kiki” Beckman
(Quoted in the Arizona Republic at age 90, after making yet another climb up the Grand Canyon. Still walking five miles every day in Phoenix, Mrs. Beckman is an occasional visitor to Mt. Gretna and the mother of Conewago Hills resident Laura Feather.)


We were thinking the other day about all the good things that happen when Mt. Gretna people work together. Volunteers from across the community turn out and pitch in to help diverse groups, water gets delivered to neighbors in need, turkey vultures (most of them, anyway) get sent packing.

When the need is clear, Mt. Gretna’s diverse population proves that it can act as one. People at the fire company recall a time about five years ago when a plea for funds to purchase a new five-inch hose (at a cost of $12,000) went unanswered. Only a few people responded. Shortly afterward, an abandoned home near the old Chautauqua Park caught fire. As folks here watched flames rise higher than the trees, suddenly a new reality about the frail environment in which we live took hold. Donations to purchase a new hose filled the coffers within two weeks.
Finally (cont.)
Clearly, when we work together, things get accomplished. But diversity plays a role, too. As someone mentioned in the recent Chautauqua survey: “Our current system of a complex web of sundry groups seems to be functioning quite well. Does the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” apply here, or are we in jeopardy of having the whole thing unravel?” Good question. We don’t know the answer, but we suspect a credo long held by the Moravians may be useful: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love.”

Nobody, it seems, quite knows what it is that makes Mt. Gretna work. Let’s hope no one gets too serious about probing into the reasons why. Socrates notwithstanding, sometimes it does seem that the unexamined life is worth living. But then, what do we know?

Best wishes,

Roger Groce

P.S. Please continue your thoughtful practice of forwarding this newsletter to others, and printing copies for neighbors who haven’t yet scaled the cyber-ladder.