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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter

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

No. 152                                                                                                                                 July 1, 2014

Customs, culture and a lasting cohesiveness that proved irreplaceable

Looking back over Mt. Gretna's past offers glimpse into its future

   Their numbers are shrinking and only a handful are left. But those who grew up in Mt. Gretna in the '30s, '40s, and '50s learned lessons that lasted a lifetime and may offer guidance for Mt. Gretnans who follow.
   "I don't think many people experience in their lives what we did," says Pat Pinsler, who helped organize the Mt. Gretna Historical Society's 10th Anniversary gathering last month.
   "You have high school and college reunions, but how often do you have people coming from all over the world to get together with other kids who shared their childhood," she asks.
   What makes such gatherings all the more remarkable is that in those early years "you could count

Bill Hicks: The commander's son, but one of the gang.

the number of children who were here all winter on the fingers of one hand," says Pat, who with older sister Mary Ellen McCarty and neighbor Morris Greiner were among those few who lived in Mt. Gretna throughout the year.  
    Summer kids or year-rounders, what they shared was more than memories: mornings atop the Governor Dick Tower, afternoons at the lake in itchy woolen bathing suits, and evenings in the teen mecca known as Midge's Stand.
   From a world where beer cans and drugs were unknown and "gang" meant cohesive friendships, they harvested memories from a deep well of unusually close alliances that have comforted and sustained them throughout their lives.
   "I don't know of any place that has had that effect on youngsters growing up," says Pat. "That is why those who come to our reunions -- some even from California this year -- have such passion for Mt. Gretna."      
   Legends such as Bill Hicks, with the gift of a quiet modesty, described what it was like to be the son of the top military commander at Mt. Gretna's National Guard encampment, which sometimes soared to 10,000 soldiers on grounds that stretched from Timber Hills to Colebrook. He has remained forever just one of the gang.
   Nancy Hatz, who became a professor of music, recalled the days of folk icon Pete Seeger and Paul Whiteman's Rhapsody in Blue orchestra at the Playhouse.  Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) Gibble drew on experiences gained at her cottage, built on the site of a carousel east of town. And several others recalled the late Pat Attwood's memorable question, why on earth did they change Sheep's Head Road to Butler Road? "Who the heck was Butler?" Ms. Attwood asked in memoirs that are now part of the Society's museum collection.
   Then came insights from Gerry Collins, owner of a pristine Campmeeting cottage

Nancy Hatz: Stars at Playhouse ignited a passion for music.

which just happens to be the only unelectrified cottage in Mt. Gretna and one he intends to keep that way.  A former school librarian, he calls it "Umbrage."  Passersby can almost hear the harrumph.   
   Theirs was a childhood of simple pleasures: Licking the frosty lid of a Dixie cup, filled to the brim with ice cream, to discover a movie star's picture underneath. Walking home from a late night doggie roast at the lake, even if Rte. 117's few streetlights had burned out or succumbed to BB gun sharpshooters. Putting rocks in the hubcaps of your sister's boyfriend's car at night, to telegraph the exact time he left.
   Tom Meredith, who piloted the Campmeeting's successful National Historic Register quest before he recently moved to Chester County, had to be reminded that despite his modesty "as a newcomer among legends," his great-grandfather had been a co-founder of the Campmeeting in 1892.
   Besides evoking memories, the proceedings also stirred musings about the future. What kind of Mt. Gretna lies ahead?
   Nancy Besch, one of the speakers, had spent a few days before the event thinking about such things, and on a quiet morning in the days preceding the gathering, she shared a few thoughts about Mt. Gretna's potential.
   She recalled that growing up in the Chautauqua -- and especially for those who lived in the Campmeeting, with cottages built on plots laid out for tents -- teaches the art of living closely together "where you can literally pass the butter knife across your neighbor's porch."     
   Those who came to Mt. Gretna only in summer were in the majority then, when two caretakers and a handful of others lived here full-time. Today, 1,500 are year-rounders and "summer people" boost the population totals by maybe another 1,000.  
   As one of those summer people, Nancy came with her family from Lancaster to the 1913 cottage her grandfather had purchased -- built on the site of a school where resident students who lived on the Chautauqua grounds for a few weeks learned to teach kindergarten classes.
   Like the nascent Mt. Gretna School of Art, it was intensely specialized teaching, where students could become immersed in studies not available at what were then known as "State Normal Schools," or teachers' colleges.

A school for kindergarten teachers once thrived on the site where Nancy Besch's grandfather purchased a Chautauqua cottage owned by her family ever since.  

   "Good things can grow out of new ideas," she says. "Who would ever have imagined the early residents going along with the idea to put an ice cream parlor on Chautauqua grounds?" she asks, reflecting on the good that has come out of the Outdoor Art Show, the Playhouse and the myriad of cultural, religious and recreational programs that now go on here. "Things like that," she says. "That's what Mt. Gretna and the Chautauqua should be about."
   As she looks to the future, Nancy recalls principles that have served her well over the years. One is to look to the positive in all things and conclude even rigorous public debates on a courteous and upbeat note. "I remember going to meetings in the Chautauqua and people came with their frustrations. But there was always good old Mr. Hutchinson, an older gentleman whose niece was a close friend of mine.  He would get up at the end of the meeting and tell some wonderful little story, or add a light philosophical note so that people left in a good humor. That sort of thing spills over, so you want to always try to look for the good," she says.
   Another of her principles is that all who love Mt. Gretna must "stick together and keep in mind that what all of us should want are things that can become lasting assets." And, oh yes, she adds,"hold meetings in accordance with both the letter and spirit of Robert's Rules."
   In deciding where to aim, "we all must want good to prevail and to focus on excellence. Mediocrity," she concludes, "is not my idea of progression. Expect excellence and good and make that a part of your mission statement." 



"We'll think of something" 

First a winning bid, then a concert for everybody Swarr      

    It's not every day that you stumble upon a perfect idea for an afternoon

Outside the Tabernacle, where they'll welcome everyone to their bid-winning concert July 12.   

that all of Mt. Grenta can enjoy.   
    Yet that's exactly what happened to Valerie Swarr at a Harrisburg Art Association fundraising auction last February.
   After winning the bid on one of the items up for auction, she and husband Fred decided to invite everybody in Mt. Gretna to stop by the Tabernacle Saturday, July 12 for an afternoon of music -- blues, jazz in a mixture of standards, originals, and dance tunes.
    "When I placed the bid, I didn't quite know what we'd do if I won," she says. "But I told Fred, 'We'll figure out something.'"
    After considering several ideas -- maybe a concert in the street, a party at their Campmeeting cottage or something outside Fred's studio under the trees, they took the suggestion of a friend. Why not hold a concert in the Tabernacle? The Campmeeting Association liked the idea and kindly consented.
   That, in a nutshell, is how the Swarrs wound up with popular area singer Erica Lyn Everest, her band and a full-blown concert delivered right to their back door.
    Place a bid on a concert?
    Anybody who knows the Swarrs knows it's just the sort of zany idea they love.
    A retired corporate art director and
one of Mt. Gretna's most prolific artists, he sometimes devotes  birthdays to painting a picture for each of his more than 60-some years in a day-l marathon. At day's end, he exchanges the paintings for one bottle of wine to each of the eager patrons who stop by his tiny hilltop studio.
   Yes, everybody's invited to the concert, says Valerie, who loves music and dancing and hopes lots of folks will join them from 2 to 4 pm in the open-to-the-public event that's just for fun. (It precedes the Shuey Brothers' 7 pm Heritage Festival concert in the Tabernacle.)
   For a sample of what's in store, tap on the album cover (inset), or
click here for a link to Ms. Everest's bio, tunes and show dates. Promises Valerie: "You're in for a treat."

   Chautauqua property owners will vote this month on whether to approve a variance that would allow a vacant cottage along Pinch Road to become a permanent residence and work space for artists. The proposal has the backing of a benefactor who offers to match dollar-for-dollar $135,000 of the estimated $287,000 needed for the project.
   Although all 14 members of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua board like the idea of an art school in Mt. Gretna, opinion is divided about whether to grant the variance, says president John Feather. "Both sides have developed thoughtful statements" about the pros and cons, he says.
   He points out that unlike in surrounding townships, decisions on property use in Mt. Gretna Borough must be guided by deed restrictions rather than zoning ordinances.
   Now in its second year and recently awarded tax-deductible [501(c)3] status, the Mt. Gretna School of Art offers instructional programs for about 20 students from leading art schools across the country during six weeks each summer. Classrooms will continue to be located at the main studio space in the La Cigale Gallery, along Rte. 117. "We don't intend to move the entire school into the new building," says director Jay Noble. "We like having the school integrated into several locations throughout Mt. Gretna, from the landscape-oriented nature of the program to the Hall of Philosophy, cottages and studio."
   The Pinch Road site is one that school officials want to "convert from a blighted building into housing and work space for eight art students and two staff members." When not in session, the school may offer additional education or artist-in-residence programming and seasonal housing for local college professors or other professionals, in "close consultation with the Pennsylvania Chautauqua," according to the school's
proposal (click here).

   Giant fans for the Playhouse?  Yes, the popular big fans with a naughty name (BIG-AS*S, with asterisk inserted to escape email spam filters) enjoy a stellar reputation and commercial success.
   The huge, silent fans reportedly simulate tropical breezes and have induced summertime audiences at the un-airconditioned Merriweather Post Pavilion in Washington, DC to don sweaters. Exactly when they'll be installed at the Playhouse is undetermined, but likely not before fall, after the current season ends. The Mt. Gretna Community Trust to Preserve the Arts, a 501(c)3 organization, funded the $20,000 project.

The 5% factor. A reader asks: "When I look around at audiences at the Playhouse, assemblies at the Tabernacle and customers at the Jigger Shop these days, it often seems as if only about 5% of the people there are Mt. Gretnans. But when I was growing up in Mt. Gretna, everybody here in the summer went to see and do everything. Now, I don't see many of my neighbors at the plays, concerts and lectures. Does anyone know why?"
   Nobody we know has the answer, but others have noticed this, too.
   Maybe it has something to do with the cocooning factor, which a trend forecaster by the fetching name of Faith Popcorn spotted over 30 years ago.
   "Cocooning" is a preference to stay indoors and watch TV, movies, text messages to friends and enjoy other forms of home-centered entertainment.
   The older we get it seems, the stronger the lure of home comforts. A
Harris poll this year found that a majority of adults now prefer to trade a night out for a night at home watching movies.
   There's also that familiar tendency to overlook the good things in our own backyard, as Russell Conwell noted over a century ago in
Acres of Diamonds. Friends in Lancaster admit they've never visited Wheatland, home of President Buchanan. New Yorkers we know almost never attend a play on Broadway. And we'll bet there are folks in San Antonio who've never been to the Alamo.
   We humans are a fickle lot and why we do what we do is often inexplicable. But, with a high concentration of Ph.Ds, psychologists and other behavioral science experts among our uncommonly smart readers, we're counting on someone to provide better answers. So here's an invitation to
send us yours.



At a small church in a very small community,
it doesn't take much to make a big difference

   Being at the center of things must be one of the chief attractions when people decide to lend a hand at the only church in town.
   It's where they need singers to fill out the voices in a small but much appreciated choir, where Sunday School teachers willing to take on one week a month assignments will be welcomed, and where folks with the skills to help figure out how to create a meeting room in what once was a community store are now needed.

   The latest newsletter at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church overflows with opportunities for service. For a copy, call the church office (964-3241) or click here.  

   If none of the opportunities above strike your fancy, try spending a few hours with youngsters on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, part of a youth ministry program.

   Or sign up for a Wacky Wednesday session of Drip Drop Splat, The Plumbers Nightmare, or Wacky Water Golf. 

   No, it doesn't take much to make a difference. And, as those who've tried it tell us, Mt. Gretna United Methodist -- a small church in a small town -- is a good place to start. Sightings .   

  If anybody can find beauty wherever she goes, leave it to Mt. Gretna's "Flower Lady," Mary Hernley.

   With a wry smile as customers came to her roadside stand last month, she was giving away what looked (in photo at right) like an ordinary weed. 

  "You don't have to plant it or put it in water," she said. "Just take it and wait a day or two. Before you know it, you'll get a surprise."
   Sure enough, customers accustomed to beautifying their homes and porches with flowers from the colorful stand Mary has occupied for the past 47 years, took her advice and voila: As promised, what seemed a forlorn weed blossomed into a work of art (left).
      NOTE: Mary's talk on Flower Arranging in the
Chautauqua Summer Programs Series comes up at the Hall of Philosophy July 28.

    KENNETT SQUARE, PA -- Gathered around their "cooking with mushrooms" instructor, Mt. Gretnans Evelyn Koppel, Sid Hostetter and (far right) Kathy Wall embarked on a cooking expedition last month to learn about the intricacies of crimini, portabella, maitake and shitake -- delectable mushrooms all, we're told. They took along with them their own personal guide and mentor Madelaine Gray, whose scenes from Provence, Paris and Mt. Gretna just happen to be some of the most collected photographs in the world.
   What some may not know about Madelaine is that she's the daughter of a newspaper editor who taught her the joys of photography as an avocation that became her profession. Yet her journalistic training comes in handy, especially for The Mt. Gretna Newsletter, as she comes upon interesting scenes in her travels around the world.
   She'll soon be moving to Sarasota, but that's okay with us. So many Mt. Gretnans now winter in Sarasota we're we're thinking about opening a bureau there. Ms. Gray hopes to throw a party for Mt. Gretnans in her new neighborhood next winter. We're pretty sure she'll send us a picture.

    Georgia's Most Positive Women's Coach of the Year turns out to be the daughter of a Mt. Gretna coaching legend. Valerie Davis Missick captured the honor last month as the girls cross country and track coach at the Coretta Scott King Academy in Atlanta.
   Ms. Missick follows in the footsteps of the folks who raised her, Lakeview Drive residents John Davis, the retired Cedar Crest High School swim coach, and his wife Connie, a clinical psychologist.
  A graduate of Germantown Academy in Philadelphia, she is a four-time All-American of the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association. A University of Miami Lady Hurricane, she also qualified in 1992 for the Pan Pacific Games.
   Fred Spangler may be on his way to becoming the poet laureate of Mt. Gretna. Last one of his poems was selected as a winner in the Lebanon Community Library's annual poetry contest. This year, another poem was chosen for similar honors.
In Defense of Crows" was inspired by five crows that regularly visited historic Soldier's Field, just outside the front door of his Valley Road apartment. It appears in the Lebanon County Library's 2014 Celebration of Poetry edition.
  He has lived in Mt. Gretna since the early 1970s and retired 15 years ago as a teacher of science, geography and history at Northern Lebanon High School. Since his wife died five years ago, Mr. Spangler has lived alone. His apartment includes paintings he himself has done, a collection of German fraktur , classical recordings and his writing pad, which he keeps by his favorite chair. A former organist, he enjoys the Chautauqua organ series recital series which resumes this month.
   He says of his new life alone with only his music and poetry, "I have my fields in the front yard, a dense forest in my backyard and culture in downtown Mt. Gretna. The best of three worlds."







Melvin P. Spicer, Jr. (1939-2014)

   Mel Spicer, who lived quietly along Timber Road and had been a member of the former Mt. Gretna Rotary Club, lived his life in accordance with Rotary International's 4-Way Test.  He concentrated on the good and went out of his way to compliment and support others. For many years, after each issue of this monthly newsletter, he sent us a cheerful note, often as not to express sincere appreciation for keeping him up with the news in Mt. Gretna.
  A U.S. Army veteran, former textile industry executive and consultant to Lebanon Valley Engraving, he is survived by his wife of 52 years, Paula Harris Spicer, two sons, two brothers and a sister. A complete obituary appears

Robert A. Krueger (1919 - 2014)

Wearing a hat and a smile that became his trademarks before he moved from Mt. Gretna three years ago, Bob Krueger with friends Jeanine and Jack Bitner, who died in 2008, and (in foreground) former Badtorf Avenue residents Margaret and Bob Smith, now also deceased.                                                                        Photo courtesy of Trish Lamont 

    Bob Krueger, a Chicago native who lived for a number of years in the Timber Hills neighborhood of Timber Cove before moving to Moravian Manor in Lititz, died May 19. A frequent patron of Le Sorelle Cafe and fondly remembered by Trish Lamont, mother of the daughters who once owned the restaurant, he was 94.
 A World War II Army veteran, he had been a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Colebrook and was an honorary life member of the Lions Club. He was married to the late Mary Mueller Krueger who died in 2011. A complete obituary appears



























































Morning dew at Soldiers Field




Tuesday, July 1:

The Canadian Brass opens Music at Gretna's summer series at the Playhouse tonight, 7:30 pm. As this issue closed yesterday, a few seats were still available. Click here.    


Thursday-Saturday, July 3-5:  


Grand Illumination throughout Mt. Gretna in an Independence Day weekend celebration from Bridge and Timber Hills to the Heights, Chautauqua and Campmeeting. 


Thursday, July 3:

Organ Recital series begins, 7 pm


Friday, July 4:

Patriotic music in the Playhouse with the Rehrersburg Band, 7 pm.
Saturday, July 5:

Note: Previously scheduled Campmeeting Children's Carnival has been canceled.  


Fairy Garden Parade, starts from the Hall of Philosophy, 10 am.

Heritage Festival Stardust Memories, Tabernacle 7 pm   


New Black Eagles jazz band at the Playhouse, 7:30 pm 

Sunday, July 6:

Worship services for Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church begin summer schedule in the Tabernacle, 10:00 am. Services also in the sanctuary at 8:30 am.


Jazz Worship Service with New Black Eagles, Playhouse 11 am

Music of Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky with pianist Liza Stepanova and the Lysander Trio at the Playhouse, Music at Gretna, Playhouse 7:30 pm.


Thursday, July 10 - 20:

Moon over Buffalo starts at the Playhouse, 7:30 pm


Tuesday, July 8 - Aug. 30:
"Applause!"  musical review opens at the Timbers Dinner Theatre, with buffet lunch or dinner.

Friday, July 11:
"The Coghlan Years" a Gretna Theatre retrospective with Jack Graham, Hall of Philosophy, 7:30 pm Friday shifts to the 2nd Friday this month at art galleries, studios and restaurants throughout Mt. Gretna in a walking tour that begins around 5 pm. Music, refreshments and "meet-the-artist" opportunities abound.

Click here for Notices sent by participating sites as we went to press 


Saturday, July 12:   

Writers Series  Gabriel Sherman, author of "The Loudest Voice in the Room" isn't a Fox News fan, and his biography of Roger Ailes will leave even devoted Republicans scratching their heads. Hall of Philosophy, 10 am.

Chautauqua Grounds History Walk with Ron Hontz, Mt. Gretna Information Center, 11 am.

The Swarrs' remarkable gift (see story this issue): Erica Lyn Everest and her band at the Tabernacle, 2 to 4 pm.

Full Moon Hike at Governor Dick Park, $3 per person.  8 pm

SATURDAY, July 19:
University for a Day at the Chautauqua, 8:30 am. click here
SUNDAY, July 20:
Butterflies through Binoculars at Gov. Dick Park.  Fritz Heilman helps identify these magic flyers. 2:30 pm

Ballet music of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky as Music at Gretna's summer salute to Russian music shifts to the Ware Center as part of the Lancaster International Piano Festival. 7:30 pm.

WEDNESDAYS, July 23 - Aug. 13:
Wacky Wednesdays for kindergarteners thru 6th graders. Try Ping Pong Paddle Panic, The Plumbers Nightmare Relay, Drip Drop Splat, and Wacky Water Golf. . . a ton of fun at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, 6:30 to 8 pm.


THURSDAY, July 24 - Aug. 2:

Little Shop of Horrors starts at the Playhouse, 7:30 pm

SATURDAY, July 26:

Writers Series: New York Times best-selling author and former Mt. Gretnan Elizabeth Wien at the Hall of Philosophy, 10:30 am 

Campmeeting annual picnic; New location this year: The 12-2 pm picnic at the fire hall will be followed by the annual meeting at 3 pm with Board of Managers election immediately afterwards. Bring covered dish, salad or dessert. Hot dogs, BBQ and drinks provided. 


Men's Tennis Tournament begins, 4 pm

SUNDAY, July 27:
Basic'ly Brass, from Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, performs at the 10 am service in the Tabernacle.  


Don't forget:

Mt. Gretna's new year-round calendar appears online, a service of the Mt. Gretna Arts Council.  



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