Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter

"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
Newsletter Home
Join Our Mailing List
Email: The Mt. Gretna Newsletter


The Mt. Gretna Newsletter

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

No. 145                                                                                                          December 1, 2013


You know it's Christmas when . . .     The annual Christmas tree lighting and carol singing. It is the start of a season that begins in the heart of Mt. Gretna, at a home where organ recitals reverberate in July, where friends often gather for good cheer and morning coffee throughout the year, and where, on Saturday, Dec. 7, the joys of the holiday season will truly begin.
   It is the home of Peter Hewitt and organist Walter McAnney, along Princeton Avenue opposite the post office.
   An occasion like no other, it is where young and old assemble from every sector of Mt. Gretna, and all are indeed welcome. A tradition that ignites a spirit that now has become the quintessential ingredient of a Mt. Gretna Christmas.
   The evening begins at 5:30 with the lighting of a tree at the point where three of Mt. Gretna's main roads come together. And it continues until all have sung old carols, made new friends and sampled a wealth of assorted treats of the season that they and their neighbors have brought. It engenders a friendly warmth that endures into the New Year.
   Hot mulled cider? Yes, of course. And the rest is up to us.
  By tradition, everyone brings a dish of finger food to share. Anyone stuck for an idea of what to bring simply
contacts Rhoda Long, whose suggestions can always help make this occasion one of the year's most memorable.
   As for what else awaits in December, please refer to the Calendar at the end of this letter.


Christmas through the eyes of an artist

  Editor's Note: Although regarded as one of "Mt. Gretna's best," the artist Eva Bender remains largely unseen, and maybe even unknown to many newcomers.

  One reason, of course, is that this Swedish native no longer lives here. But she's not far away. And her paintings will be part of Mt. Gretna forever.

  One glimpses her occasionally by the lake, alongside her easel with brushes and paints. One sees her sometimes with friends at dinner, where she blends into gatherings almost unnoticed. And one gets occasional chances to see her works on display, at local galleries where the emphasis is on excellence. For that is where she belongs.

  What most may not realize, however, is that Eva Bender is also a writer. She once told us that writing opens the eyes of an artist to "different ways of seeing." But this may be the first chance most will have had to glimpse her work.
  She was reticent about sharing this holiday essay, originally written in 2011. "It doesn't translate well," she feared. Eva writes a column for
Västerbottens-Kuriren, a newspaper in Umeå, Sweden. At our behest, she translated it for this holiday issue, modifying it only slightly for a few passages she felt may have been "too personal." It speaks to what she terms "the constant pull between our longing for 'everything' and a reality that leaves us feeling vaguely dissatisfied, knowing that we can't have it."

Peace and Quiet

By Eva Bender   

   Christmas ought to be longer, more intense, home made yet perfect. It should rest on the old recipes but be adjusted to new traditions and cultures. Even if it isn't deeply spiritual, it should at least be "good" and inclusive, have space for everyone, including Muslim boy friends, single aunts and vegans.

   It should be much simpler and cheaper than the Christmas celebrations from our childhood -- but still have the same deep content: devotion, magic, slow and patient preparations, beauty. Although we often buy the cookie dough ready mixed, we long for our grandmothers' gingerbread cookies; flour in the air, mountains of seasonings, rivers of dark syrup.

   We have simplified the production until it often has become thin and flat. The curtains don't part for Fanny's and Alexander's food and candle orgy from Ingmar Bergman's movie.

   But the child within always longs to wake up to a celebration of a

Eva at 10 in Sweden at Christmas

size and scope that is possible only with the aid of a large support staff or at least one stay-at-home parent plus older relatives with hand-written recipes for cognac wreaths and herring salad.

   We will fail, and we know it already in November. So it's imperative to insulate ourselves from commercial exaggerations and wholly unrealistic expectations, as much as it's possible. To figure out what is most important and subtract till there is very little left.

   Besides time with family and friends, it is pretty clear to me what I need. Macaroni

An Eva Bender watercolor from November 2012

ornaments painted with gold paint, absolutely. Quiet and beauty. A friend was saved by a trip to Middlecreek.

   "It saved me. It was bitingly cold, empty and quiet. The sky is large out there. I heard a few geese, that was all. Everything was clean and sharp. Nothing was irritating, nothing was dirty, nothing was unnecessary. I thought this is all I need. Peace and quiet."

   We live in a world so full of images and noise that quiet and emptiness almost feels painful. Sometimes it seems everything has been chewed to bits and soiled. The Swiss philosopher Max Picard once said that nothing has changed man's nature as much as the loss of silence.

   Our lives often feel like instant replay;  there are fewer and fewer intense moments, spaces between the everyday routines. To really be present in relation to something could go missing from our lives in the future, warns ESI Design's Ed Schlossberg. "You think you miss nothing, but you probably miss everything".

   Those I talk to don't want more for Christmas. Everybody wants less, some almost nothing at all. Maybe I could wish us all a warm wave of love, a saffron bun, a night walk in sharp and clean winter air. A few moments without Internet, texting, Twitter and the constant chatter on Facebook.

    I wish us all an intense Christmas!   Sunoco Logistics says it may construct a new gas pipeline that could affect areas of the 1,100-acre Governor Dick Park near Mt. Gretna.
  Outlining a two-phase project with Lebanon County Commissioners Nov. 23, Sunoco Logistics' Donald Zoladkiewicz says the company plans to retrofit an existing pipeline through the county in the next six to eight months and may add a new one alongside it within its existing right-of-way.
  That raised environmental concerns among some, including commissioner Jo Ellen Litz who quickly circulated a
videotape of the hearing

via email.     
 Ms. Litz says a map presented at the meeting (but not shown in the video) indicated that the pipeline route runs through both Governor Dick Park and Middle Creek Wildlife Refuge.
   "If the right-of-way through Governor Dick and Middle Creek is less than 50 feet, I see potential to destroy sensitive habitat and I would oppose this route," she said.
  Ms. Litz has called for a task force of municipalities, property owners and conservation groups to meet with a Sunoco Logistics representative Dec. 4 or 5.

   South Londonderry Township last month approved a new zoning ordinance that had been under consideration and occasionally arduous debate for more than three years.

    During two final sessions held in November, the supervisors invited public comments at a special meeting Nov. 6 and then cast votes at their regularly scheduled session six days later.
   Only one supervisor, newest member Doug Cheney, voted against the new ordinance. [At the Nov. 6 special meeting he had suggested that the new ordinance did not go far enough in protecting areas south of Rte. 322 (which includes Mt. Gretna) and that "environmental and nostalgic" assets there could be in jeopardy. He also felt that the ordinance's requirements for permits, engineering studies and other construction requisites would prove unnecessarily costly for residents.]

  Added to their 2-to-1 vote was a statement that the Zoning Commission would periodically "review and if necessary revise" the ordinance to ensure it "continued to serve the interests of everyone in the township."

  Dr. Gene Otto, a local pediatrician who heads family-owned Eastern Enterprises, said after the vote he would continue to press for zoning changes. The company's 55-acre tract surrounds the lake and was designated as a Conservation zone 11 years ago. Last summer, for the first time, Eastern Enterprises unexpectedly petitioned for a change from Conservation to Low Density Residential zoning, which would open the possibility for multifamily housing such as townhouses and apartments.
   At its Sept. 17 meeting, the township Planning Commission unanimously rejected that request 8-0. Among other concerns, they cited a lack of fire hydrants, increased traffic congestion, the uncertain impact to water and other environmental resources, and limited access for emergency vehicles along only a single public road into the communities of Timber Hills and Conewago Hill where 162 homes are already located. 

   Among the contested elections locally last month were two of special interest to Mt. Gretnans.
   Campmeeting resident David Lloyd, who heads Ephrata Area Rehab Services, nearly unseated 30-year incumbent Russell Gibble, an independent contractor, in the West Cornwall Supervisors race. With a four-vote margin in the 486 ballots cast, Mr. Gibble squeaked through to another term with 50.41 percent of the vote.
   In the first contested race in memory for a two-year seat on Mt. Gretna's Borough Council, author and former congressional candidate Lois Herr won 64 percent of the 89 votes cast, unseating incumbent Angela Shea, an accountant, who had been appointed to fill the post vacated in January this year by John Hambright, who died in April.

   Emergency Reporting: Now, both of the police departments serving Mt. Gretna broadcast instant crime alerts and reports of missing persons, traffic advisories and police-sponsored community events via the system known as Nixle.
   Unlike a former emergency notice network that delivered messages strictly by email (which most people check only periodically), Nixle also sends instantaneous text messages to cell phones.
  Both Cornwall and South Londonderry Township police departments provide this service without cost. All that's needed is to go to

and set up your account.  
  The system allows you to add as many areas as you like. That means you can receive bulletins from both Cornwall and South Londonderry police departments (as well as any agency using the Nixel system).




   Saying good-bye after nearly three decades, John and Susanne Balmer left last month for their new home in Highlands Ranch, Colo. to be closer to one of their chi and a climate that Susanne hopes will be more suitable for her health.  
   They leave behind a treasure chest of memories. John is the builder who remodeled the fire hall, rebuilt the Hideaway after a fire, and transformed dozens of homes and cottages into stellar examples of Mt Gretna living at its best.  
   Susanne, a wife, mother and friend to neighbors throughout Mt. Gretna, is also a gifted landscaper who turned ordinary gardens into outdoor galleries, especially around their home, pond and waterfall on Batdorf Avenue.
  "A home is just a frame with walls and a roof," she wrote in a parting entry on Facebook. "It's what happens inside that matters."
   What has mattered most, she said, are the "joys of life events -- weddings and graduations, the arrival of grandchildren, dinners with friends and the companionship of wonderful neighbors. We are privileged to have been a part of it."

   An a about Lance Armstrong by Bill Gifford, moderator of the Chautauqua Summer Programs' Friday morning Writers' Series, has been chosen for the anthology, "Best American Sportswriting 2013

   His story,
"It's Not About the Lab Rats,"

for Outside magazine's February 2012 issue delved into financial operations of Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation and found "a mix of fine ideas, millions of dollars aimed at 'awareness'" and practically nothing for scientific research. The article ran seven months before the United States Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong from competitive cycling for life. The honor was especially appreciated, said Mr. Gifford, since it came from guest editor J. R. Moehringer, one of his favorite writers. He is currently at work on another Outside article on big-wave surfing. 

   Speaking of writers, the commendations continue for former Mt. Gretna Heights resident Elizabeth Wein. Her newest book, "Rose Under Fire," has just been added to New York Times' Notable Children's Books of 2013

list.  An earlier book, "Code Name Verity," was also chosen for that honor last year.
   Like the highly praised "Verity," says the Times, "Rose Under Fire" is another World War II adventure novel. "Rose, 18, an American transport pilot and aspiring poet, struggles to survive in a women's concentration camp after her plane is grounded in Germany," said The Times

   Remember our story last month about Gordon Keeney's remarkable 19-year-old truck, the one with over 300,000 miles?

  Well, a weeks after we wrapped up the story, Mr. Keeney's hopes for getting maybe 500,000 miles out of that truck wrapped up as well.

   On his way home to Mt. Gretna one night, he had an encounter with a deer, one of about 1 million car accidents with deer each year. Most occur in November, says State Farm Insurance.
   Unfortunately, it was the end of the line for the deer and for Mr. Keeney's beloved 1994 Toyota Hi/Lux.
  He promptly found another used truck to replace it, however. "Practically new," he said with a smile, "it's only got 141,000 miles."


    "Ever since we built our new 1,600-sq.-ft. addition to house bigger fire engines," says Mt. Gretna Fire president Joe Shay, "we've wanted to put a lighted star atop the cupola at Christmas."
   This year, they did.
   Thanks to the gifts of time, materials and talents of people like Tom and Eli Weaber of the Lebanon metal fabricating firm of Miles T. Weaber & Son and a crew of volunteers not given to acrophobia who climbed onto the roof early on the morning following Thanksgiving, a star to symbolize the spirit of the season -- designed by Mt. Gretna Heights resident Max Hunsicker -- was lofted into place.
   From its perch atop the cupola, which Mt. Gretna architect Roland Nissley and builder John Balmer added to both shelter the siren and amplify Mt. Gretna's turn-of-the-century architectural heritage, the fire company's star will now, and for years to come, glow with its seasonal message.




A little green bench and a story she had to write 

    Most visitors who come to the Chautauqua playground will likely overlook a small bench that recently was added near the other, grown-up-sized benches already there.
    The latest one was finished only after Labor Day when the summer season was over. It bears an inscription: "All children of the world will be welcome at this seat of rest."

Amid other benches all in tan, no one told the bench maker Eliza's favorite color was green. 

    Most readers of the latest books will also likely overlook a slender, 22-page privately published volume called "Footprints and Wings (A Happening in Mt. Gretna)." 
   But the bench and the book are related, like most of the people in this story.
    "I'm no author," says Mary Jane Haines, who came to Mt. Gretna nine years ago and shares a home with her friend Aunt Jann near the Timbers.
   Now 78, she is known to friends as "Aunt Emy." Eliza Kate, at nearly 6 years old and the great-granddaughter of Ms. Haines' sister, is the "girl of poem" described in a book she has written. It is her first book, written out of love rather than any expectation of fame or profit.
   At $25 a copy, the selling price is exactly the price Ms. Haines paid to have this limited-edition volume published. It is worth it, she feels, even though so far she has sold only 19 copies of the first 25 she had to order. Never mind. The book holds a value she deems eternal.
   It is the story of a little girl who did not live in Mt. Gretna. She had struggled to come into the world. Yet after she survived two open heart operations in infancy, she came to Mt. Gretna often ... to visit Aunt Emy and Aunt Jann, to romp in the playground, to play-act on the pavilion stage, to delight in ice cream treats at the Jigger Shop, and to find treasures like the bright green stone the size of a dime that she discovered one day in the Fairy Garden.

"I'm no author," says Mary Jane Haines (aka Aunt Emy), but it was a story she had to write

The stone was a treasure that would mysteriously disappear, but only temporarily. It suddenly turned up one day, as if by some magic.
   It is a treasure that Ms. Haines now keeps. A small green stone, the same color as a bench specially created for Eliza, the only one like it in a park filled with benches in tan, made of natural wood. Curiously, no one had told the bench builder at Conestoga Precast to fashion this tiny bench in Eliza's favorite color. As with most things in this true story turned into a tale for children, it just happened that way.
   In a world hardened to senseless tragedies, "Footprints and Wings" may light a path for anyone who has ever lost anything dear to them, such as compassionate eyes and a gentle, welcoming spirit.
    It is a story of Mt. Gretna, too, illustrated by Andrew Boutcher, Ms. Haines' brother-in-law who lived in Campmeeting for 15 years before he and wife Delly moved to Arizona.
   Others also have helped locally. Writer Tom Meredith gave her advice about the intricacies of publishing, neighbors Doug and Dawn Olt helped with pictures, and realtor Emi Snavely counseled on other steps along the way.
    Mary Jane Haines doesn't have a computer but corresponds mainly by notes written in her own hand. She may also be reached in the afternoons by telephone, 717-964-1349. Her address is PO Box 204, Mt. Gretna PA 17064.

   Readers who buy this book should not expect to find perfectly polished prose. Like a pie that comes not from a supermarket but out of your grandmother's oven, edges around the crust may be a little uneven, but the result is an output of love. Nor will they find that every question has been answered. Sometimes there are no answers. The unsettling details of what happened Ms. Haines shares mostly in private conversations at appropriate moments, and in gentle words chosen with thoughtful compassion. Writing this book has eased an arduous journey.
  In large, extended families, losses sometimes pile quickly one upon another in old age, losses that can be neither explained nor replaced.
   In Aunt Emy's expansive circle, seven funerals were held last year. Two more than anyone would have thought.



As competition heats up, the annual Mt. Gretna Soup Cook-Off takes a decidedly sophisticated turn 

   Restaurateurs know a secret: Give a soup an exotic name and you're halfway home.
   This year's winners at Mt. Gretna's 10th annual soup contest came not only with intriguing  names but also exotic ingredients -- not to mention soup by the crock-ful -- in a quest to win the votes of some 200 patrons who were also the judges.    

    At $10 a ticket to enter, taste and vote, the affair proved more than just flavorful and fun. It also proved effective as just one more way those clever firefighters devise each year to stuff greenbacks into the fire company's coffers as they close in on a $400,000 fundraising goal that's now within sight.

"Best ever," says attorney Feather

   Equally evident: As the event has grown in popularity, so has its  increasingly sophisticated array of tastes, talents and tantalizing ingredients.
   "This was the most imaginative, creative collection of soups ever," declared Chautauqua president John Feather. "You can quote me on that," he added, soup spoon in mouth but with the skilled assurance of a lawyer not given to foot-in-mouth statements.
   Others said the annual affair now edges ever closer to gourmet status, with "restaurant quality" offerings that contestants clearly labor in their kitchens to produce, sometimes days before the cook-off begins.
   Just because it's good doesn't guarantee a prize, however. Among the clear favorites that narrowly escaped a prize was Bonnie Anderson's Italian Sausage soup.

Top vote-getters in a contest overflowing with out-of-the-ordinary soups were (top, from left) Bob Hertzler, Pam Travitz, Nick Sweet and (bottom) Jeanie Bachand and Deidre Sweet. 

    It proved so popular, in fact, that Ms. Anderson had to dispatch her husband back to their cottage for refills, since many patrons/judges returned for seconds, some even for thirds.
  "A hearty soup, the kind you'd find coming out of a country kitchen rather than a restaurant," said one impressed voter.
   This year's winner was a unique chowder creation by Chautauquans Nick and Deidre Sweet. Their carefully lettered sign, "New England Chowder,"  had been crossed out by pen and replaced with "NEW ORLEANS chowder."
   "I don't know what they added, but it was chock full of  clams and potatoes and certainly had a kick to it," said Marianne Spychalski, herself a cook of renown, especially to her appreciative neighbors on Muhlenberg Avenue.
   Second place went to Tammy Travitz, who came with not one crock pot of ingredients but two -- the first filled with a white bean soup, the other steaming with black beans. To serve each patron this unique pureed blend she called "Black and White Soup," Ms. Travitz scooped out a little from each pot into the sampling cup, then added toppings like sour cream and cilantro seasoning.
  Third place went to Bob Hertzler, who also collected a second ribbon for the "Most Unusual" entry. He chose the alluring name, "Choco Moca Latte," a dark chocolate blend topped with malted espresso cream.
   Jeanie Bachand, making her fifth appearance in the competition, won "Best Presentation" honors. She came dressed in traditional costume aptly befitting her entry, "German Christmas Soup."
   Others who participated in this year's affair, which natural-born organizer Thatcher Bornman (he cooks free hot dogs on Big Junk day, marches as SuperPumpkin in the Halloween parade and has even been known to dress as Santa paddling a canoe in the lake on Christmas Day) proclaims the annual chance to "please your palate and cast your ballot," were:
    Cheryl Boyd with "Autumn Delight," Betsy Noullet with "New England Clam Chowder," the trio of Bobby Bernieri, Lesley Schmidt and Melanie Fleischmann with "Garlick Delight," Linda Wilson with "Pumpkin Corn Chowder," Pat Allwein, Tara Klick and son Noah with "Mushroom Beef," Tam Donnachie with "Beef Vegetable," Paula Richard with "Chicken Tortilla," Deb Vollmar and Katie Ersoz with "Curried Pumkin Bisque," and the Mt. Gretna Fire Company's self-described "girls from Station 38" who combined to create none other than "Station 38 Cashew Chili."
   When the contest was over and the patrons had cast their votes,  the cooks -- indubitably among Mt. Gretna's finest -- collected their wares and headed home, many undoubtedly mulling over recipes they'll try next year.


Call Met-Ed if you lose electrical power


Met-Ed gives top priority to outages affecting the greatest numbers of people. Your call helps pinpoint outages and may also speed repairs in Mt. Gretna. Phone even if neighbors have also called, say Met-Ed officials.  

NOTE:  In extreme weather conditions, the Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter during 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, no facilities are available for pets.


The ubiquitous Mt. Gretna flamingo's off on adventures around the world  

     Whether you're a few thousand or even a few hundred miles from home, you know to expect quizzical looks and furrowed brows when people ask where you're from.
     "Mt. Gretna? Where's that?"
     Most of us reply, "It's near Hershey." People nod when they hear that, even though all they really know about are Hershey bars and Kisses.

Adopt a flamingo and photograph him in spots around the world to put Mt. Gretna on the map ... and raise funds for the fire company.

  Truth is, although Mt. Gretna sometimes shows up on those lists of America's best places to live, it's probably also on the list of America's least-known places. 
    Now comes the "Adopt a Flamingo" campaign to send Mt. Gretna's iconic flamingo out into the world, introduce and bring back pictures of him in world-famous settings.
    Adopt a Flamingo?  They come in all sizes and guises. Some dressed as firemen, some as bartenders, some as musicians, others as artists, some as actors, some serving pizzas.

      To no one's surprise, this offbeat idea comes from Mt. Gretna's Max Hunsicker (left), who devised the flamingo icon more than 20 years ago in what was supposed to be an April Fool's joke. Instead, the idea took on a momentum all its own. Suddenly pink flamingos started turning up everywhere -- on lampposts, street signs and in yard

Actors, musicians, firemen, and pizza specialists. The flamingo comes in various guises and sizes. 

   Mr. Hunsicker, a retired teacher and drama coach, has donated individually handcrafted flamingo replicas to the fire company, which quickly launched a campaign to send the winsome bird around the world with anyone who donates $100 or more to the Mt. Gretna Fire Company (earmarked "Secret Flamingo Project").

    Who'll come up with the zaniest, most interesting places and situations for the Mt. Gretna Flamingo? Someone who finds a spot on the pyramids perhaps, or atop the Eiffel Tower? Anything, anywhere is fair game in this contest -- even poses with celebrities.
    Top entries will appear as they come in to the Mt. Gretna Newsletter.
    And the winners? Well, they could qualify for big prizes, says Mr. Hunsicker. An all-expense paid trip to Rexmont, he says, or maybe a tour of the Mt. Gretna Wastewater Treatment facility. The real prize, of course, is having fun in this competition for the wildest, most outlandish entries that Mt. Gretnans can think up.
    How to get your flamingo?
    John Mitchell, who runs La Cigale next to the miniature golf course, has a dozen or so on display. (Although not technically for sale, the flamingos are token of appreciation for a contribution of $100 or more to the fire company.)
   Mr. Mitchell plans to take one to France in January, maybe for a picture alongside the Seine or perhaps somewhere in Provence.   

    "It's an ongoing project, a chance to take the Mt. Gretna spirit around the world," he adds. He also expects to take a flamingo on his next trip North Carolina, where he's an expert in finding good barbecue joints.
   "I know how to spot 'em," he says. "If it looks like the kind of place you'd never want to go in -- that's the place to go in."
    With a flamingo tucked under his arm, the redoubtable Mr. Mitchell no doubt will make the occasion memorable.   



Questions Readers Ask 

<> Here on the "other side of Mt. Gretna," we've seen an increase in speeders, especially along Timber Road.
    Some drivers seem totally unaware that this road is also used by people walking dogs or with their children, or sometimes by those walking alongside disabled people as they travel in motorized chairs.

   Older people may feel threatened. They sometimes can't hear traffic approaching from behind, and most are unable to react quickly. I'm afraid somebody is going to be hit or killed. 
   Timber Road seems to be the hotspot.

   Some of us have talked about jotting down the license numbers of repeat offenders. We've talked with the South Londonderry Township police, but I know they have a big area to patrol, and we're only a small part of it. Any suggestions?

[] We checked with South Londonderry Twp. police chief William Reigle. Although his major problems lie in the Campbelltown area, he assures us that Mt. Gretna's concerns are just as important.
   "We want people to call about any problems they're having, so we know specifically where to concentrate our efforts," he said.
   South Londonderry officers made speed checks on Timber Road this past summer and cited three drivers in two hours.
   He assures us they "will spend more time in the area."
   Although manpower requirements make speed details not always possible, just the sight of police cars often causes habitual speeders to slow down, he says.
   Traffic complaints and accidents in South Londonderry Twp. have "dropped considerably" in the last 12 months, says Chief Reigle.
   As for collecting license numbers, he suggests a different approach.
   "Vehicle descriptions (make and color) and time of day they typically drive along Timber Road would be more helpful," he says.
   Those yard signs urging drivers to slow down? They usually don't work, he adds. "What gets the best results," he says, "is increased enforcement."




Elmira H. Leibig (1922-2014).

  Only a handful of youngsters have actually grown up in Mt. Gretna from infancy into their teenage years. Elmira Leibig was among them. From the age of about six months, she and her family lived in a log cabin across from the mansion that today is known as The Mt. Gretna Inn.
   Their life included deliveries from a meat truck and bread from the baker, brought to their door at 7 cents a loaf. Trips to a grocery store in Lebanon occurred only once a week.
   How and why did she come here? Her father, Morris S. Greiner, was the telegraph operator at the Mt. Gretna Railroad Station. The railroads continued operating, but only until she was about seven. Then her father switched jobs. To keep his family in Mt. Gretna, he took a post with the Army's motor pool in Colebrook. 

   Not many called her "Elmira," however. To her friends she was known as Kitty. She enjoyed ice skating at the lake with people like Mary Ellen McCarty. Both were among the 10 or 12 youngsters who went to the elementary school in Quentin on a military bus, specially provided for those who lived here during encampment days. She also skated at the roller rink where her younger brother Morris worked as the "skate boy." The Mt. Gretna Roller Rink remains one of the few businesses in America still operating today almost in the same way it did when Kitty and her teenage friends skated there.

   Following graduation from Cornwall High School in 1940, she attended a business school and then went to work for a Lebanon accountant. She married Charles Leibig, Jr. in 1943. He was her high school sweetheart. They had four children.
   She was active in church life, music and playing golf and had "an infectious cheerfulness" with a positive effect on everyone whose life she touched, noted the writer of her
obituary, which appears online

. An original Mt. Gretnan. They are increasingly rare.

William Mitchell (1923-2013)

   Cottages in Mt. Gretna tend to linger in the hands of the same family, often for generations.
    Elam H. Risser had owned his Campmeeting cottage for more than 30 years when he finally passed it on to his daughter Lena and her husband William Mitchell -- after their marriage in 1950 and Bill's graduation a year earlier from the University of Pennsylvania.
    Located at the corner of Mills Avenue and 2nd Street in the Campmeeting, the cottage was aptly named "Linger Long." Like her father before her, lingering at the cottage for many summers in Mt. Gretna is exactly what Lena and Bill Mitchell did.
    When they weren't at the cottage, the Mitchells lived in Lancaster County, where they had two daughters and he was a licensed Professional Engineer.
   Bill also found time for work with the church. He served with the Penn-Mar Mission Society, the Lancaster County Council of Churches and on groups and committees with the Lititz Moravian Congregation, where services will be held on Monday, Dec. 23.
    Although Lena had passed earlier, Bill celebrated his 90th birthday last month, just 12 days before he died.
   But the Mitchells had made sure that one matter had been taken care of before they left. They turned the cottage over to daughter Susan Duehr, thus assuring that, even now, after 93 years, "Linger Long" continues to remain in the family. 
   An official obituary appears




Updates & Stuff to

Post on

The Fridge

Last rose at entrance to Markwood Avenue in the Campmeeting bids adieu to summer and to those who have left.

    Jane Mourer photo

  Nov. 8, 2013



















 Mt. Gretna
 Christmas Tree 








Candlelight services Christmas Eve



Sunday, Dec. 1:
Christmas Music by the Fire at Gov. Dick Nature Center.  "Sounds of the season and singing to favorite holiday tunes," says Center director Audrey Wells. 1- 4 pm.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013:
Winterites Holiday Covered Dish Luncheon, Mt. Gretna Fire Hall. Bring a main dish, salad, side dish, vegetable or dessert.
Men as well as women invited to bring a friend or two. Begins at noon. Details: Victor and Judy Bojko, 964-3646. (Note: Winterites meetings resume February 4 with "Tour Inside the Box," a program on Philhaven Hospital. No meeting in January.)

Wednesday, Dec. 4:
The Gathering Place, a monthly fellowship luncheon at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, 12 pm. Everyone invited, freewill offering. (Note: these luncheons resume on their regular Fourth Wednesday schedule Jan. 22.)

Friday, Dec. 6:
First Friday at the Timbers

, 5 to 8 pm, with pianist Collin Mekeel and acoustic bass musician John Gingrich.
Mt. Gretna artists Carol Snyder and Gerry Boltz (art show tent neighbors for over 20 years) will again display their works side by side; Ms. Snyder with six new paintings, 2014 Calendars and matted and unmatted Mt. Gretna prints; Mr. Boltz with life-sized and miniature carvings of birds, all found in Mt. Gretna.

Le Sorelle's

Candlelight White Christmas Dessert Buffet. the temptations: Chocolate Kahlua Snowballs, Egg Nog Mousse puddings, Holiday Fig cakes and Chocolate Ginger cookies with hot and cold beverages, plus live jazz and holiday music. $18 per person. BYOB encouraged. Seating at 7 pm. Reservations, please, by Dec. 2; (717-269-3876).

Saturday, Dec. 7:
Gifts for history buffs? On sale at the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society,

for Christmas shoppers today 11-1.

Annual House Tour

to benefit Cornwall Iron Furnace, Tickets $15 advance, $20 day of tour. 10 am-4 pm. Tel.717-272-9711

Community Christmas Tree Lighting and Carol Singing at the Princeton Avenue home of Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney, directly opposite the post office.
   Pianist Thelma Strauss will join Mr. McAnney, organist. Hot mulled cider. No admission charge. For suggestions of a holiday treat to bring, please
contact Rhoda Long. 5:30-7:30 pm.

Sunday, Dec. 8:
"Chalk Talk," an 11:30 luncheon followed by live sketches/light show presentation at 1 pm by artist Elva Hurst. $15, adults, $8 children. Benefits the needy this holiday season; $6 for the talk only. Details: or call 717-569-7593.

Saturday, Dec. 14:
Santa Arrives (11:45 am) in Mt. Gretna at the fire hall, where there'll be food, movies and a Santa Shop so youngsters can buy small gifts. (11:30 - 1 pm).

"The Art of Christmas in Mt. Gretna" at
La Cigale Gallery

includes the artwork of 11 permanent exhibitors

and guest artist Glenn Acker

, photographer.
Morgan Hackett

, a Suzuki Strings of Lebanon student from age 4-1/2, performs traditional Christmas music, Bach sonatas, Irish and Gypsy music. Seasonal refreshments, 11-5.

Christmas Scavenger Hike at Gov. Dick Park. First person to find all the hidden items wins a prize. Cost: $1. Starts1:30 pm.

Thursday Dec. 19:    Winter Stoltzfus at the Timbers. Nobody delights in narrating the Amish Christmas Story more than the celebrated "Belsnickel of Mt. Gretna," Tom Baum, and his mischievous elfin aide, Max Hunsicker.
   Surrounded by friends, fans and family, they create a memorable evening on a night when reservations are strongly recommended and prime rib is the specialty. Tel.964-3601. Starts at 6:30 pm.   

Saturday, Dec. 21:
Breakfast with Santa at Le Sorelle. Photos with Santa, choices of Snowman-shaped pancakes, "White Christmas" French Toast and other children's delights. $5.75; 9 - 11 am; no reservations, so come early.

Sunday, Dec. 22:
Children's program, Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church during the 10 am service.

Tuesday, Dec. 24:
Christmas Candlelight Services, Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church. Carols and readings to warm the heart and inspire the soul, promises Pastor MikeRemel. Services at 7 and 11 pm.

Thursday, Jan. 2:
Rte. 117 west of Timber Bridge to Colebrook closes for bridge reconstruction. If the weather remains favorable, the road should reopen in mid-February. Local motorists can use alternate route to Colebrook along Butler and Mine roads. Trucks and through traffic will be detoured along Rte. 322 and Mt. Wilson Road.

Don't forget:

Mt. Gretna's new year-round calendar appears online

, a service of the Mt. Gretna Arts Council.  

Email listings and updates to Jennifer Veser Besse at   



Other newsletters of interest:

Mt. Gretna Updates -- Issued as warranted to alert local residents to such conditions as temporary road closings, utility repairs, shelter advisories for adverse weather, lost pets and other matters affecting residents of 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 the summer; 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

 FOUNDER Carl Ellenberger's blog (highly recommended): Check for updates online at

Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society Newsletter -- Online at

 t. 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 of the Campmeeting.

Mt. Gretna Heights Newsletter -- e-mailed to Heights residents. Contact Michelle Shay,   



Send Me a Plumber with a Banjo in his Trunk
   Here in Mt. Gretna, we not only like having artists around, but we also often find them amazingly gifted in things having nothing to do with art.
   Whenever I want to have something built, fixed, or properly maintained, I like to call in somebody who thinks creatively. What that means is whenever I can, I call for a carpenter, electrician or plumber who also plays an instrument, paints pictures or bends iron into art.   
   There are plenty of people like that in Mt. Gretna. Something here attracts them.
   Creative people have a different way of seeing. That gives them an edge when it comes to designing, fixing or replacing things -- or just straightening out the things I've already made into a mess.
   One of the unexpected benefits of writing a community newsletter is that it puts me in touch with with creative people that I'd otherwise maybe never have met.
   Last month, for example, after Gordon Keeney's 19-year old Toyota utility truck passed the 300,000-mile mark, I ran a brief item about that remarkable example of modern automotive endurance.
   While gathering the details for that story, I discovered that Gordy is not just a builder, carpenter and craftsman who loves people and dogs like Winston, but also a talented drummer. He's played for bands that opened at concerts for entertainers like Jefferson Airplane, The Temptations and Gladys Knight and the Pips. He continues to play at the Hotel Hershey's Iberian Lounge. It's a part of who he is.
   A lot of people in Mt. Gretna have creative talents that most us don't know about.
   Not just musicians but also writers, painters, stained glass artisans, weavers and jewelry makers, photographers, potters and even hobbyist blacksmiths -- all living in Mt. Gretna and making it a more interesting place for us all.

  Their contributions add to a diverse mosaic, one that stokes a spirit perhaps unrecognized among those who know only that Mt. Gretna is unlike any place they've ever experienced.

One of 20 students at the Mt Gretna School of Art's first year.

  The differences are palpable.
   How many small villages like this (pop. 1500) can open the doors to five different art galleries on a summer First Friday, each filled with the works of accomplished artists who actually live there?
   In how many places can you walk out your front door, stroll down the street and see musicians who'll likely perform in Carnegie Hall next week, or actors who'll soon be on Broadway?
  There's a reason Mt. Gretna is different. The presence of artists who are attracted here has helped make it so -- artists drawn by an aura almost mystical in its unexplained essence.
   It is not a stretch to say that where artists congregate, communities thrive.
   You don't need government studies to prove that.

   Gallery Row, located on a once-declining part of Lancaster, came alive after the Pennsylvania School of Art opened its doors a few blocks away.

   In Lititz, a photographer and a landscape artist showed retail shop owners what their buildings could become simply by adding with a few artistic touches. Art shows and galleries followed. Over the next few years, the town embarked on a path of prosperity.      

    The art focal point of the entire South shifted when the Savannah College of Art and Design transformed and reclaimed one of America's most beautiful cities.

    When artists take up residence and pursue their crafts, good things happen and everybody benefits. In ways that do more than simply increase the resale value of homes and cottages.  

    In truth, something happens that goes straight to the core of our quality of living, the resonance of our lives. Something irreplaceable.

MGSOA student, photographed by Jane Mourer

    One of the best things to happen in Mt. Gretna this year was the new Mt. Gretna School of Art


    What soon followed was an unprecedented cavalcade of teachers and professors who came here for the first time from the nation's top art schools, including several who have taught at Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

   Then came the students. From colleges and universities throughout the United States. Only 20 were needed to launch the program in 2013, and they came -- 20 who included some that benefited from financial aid donated by people who understood the value of the arts in shaping a life and improving a world.

   They came for intensive studies, delving more deeply into artistic specialties not available in many college and university programs. Studies taught by faculty members who came here to teach, to guide, to critique and to share.

Unable to fly to Mt. Gretna because of an illness, art authority Amber Scoon lectured a MGSOA class via Skype from Texas. 

   It is a program patterned after one pioneered by the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Every year its director, Don Kimes, has far more applicants than his institution can accept. He guided five of them to Mt. Gretna this year. And he serves as a principal mentor for the founder of Mt. Gretna's School of Art, Jay Noble, himself a graduate of the Chautauqua program.

   Now there's talk of establishing a permanent headquarters for the Mt. Gretna School of Art, a former cottage perhaps where this six-week summer program can flourish and maybe be used for other purposes when the summer studies are over.

  The idea has backers determined to make this dream a reality with matching funds.  

   We who live here will have a chance to help the Mt. Gretna School of Art put down permanent roots.

    If that happens, the rising tide of artistic talent will likely continue, lifting all boats in the process -- including Gretna Theatre, Gretna Music and the Cicada Festival as well as the  Summer Program series and programs in the Campmeeting Tabernacle. 

   Not all of us are artists, but we who live here have our lives made better by those who add a creative sparkle to our lives. Whether we realize it or not, everyone who loves coming to Mt. Gretna -- for a day, a week or a lifetime -- has an artist's soul and an artist's heart.
   And we know, we surely do know, that we are in a place where we belong.   


    Roger Groce  

P.S. It is in this space that I usually remind readers that this newsletter is an entirely unofficial venture -- a pastime not much different from hobbies such as woodworking or golf that others enjoy -- with neither profits nor political aims in mind. I do this simply because I want to keep active as I slide ever deeper into my seventies and, hopefully, do something useful as long as my energies and abilities, both with finite limits, permit.

   I also want to thank the many people who volunteer to help write, fact-check, and proofread this newsletter and to wish one and all a joyous holiday and bountiful New Year.






              The Mt. Gretna Newsletter Constant Contact All-Star Award Winner 2010, 2011, 2012

Join Our Mailing List