The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Mt. Gretna, PA "Not a place, but a spirit."
Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)
July 1, 2014
Customs, culture and a lasting
cohesiveness that proved irreplaceable
Looking back over Mt. Gretna's past
offers glimpse into its future
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
The commander's son, but one of the gang.
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
Nancy Hatz: Stars at Playhouse ignited a passion for
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
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
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.
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-long 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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
it doesn't take much to make a big difference
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
at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church overflows with opportunities for
service. For a copy, call the church office (964-3241) or click here.
none of the opportunities above strike your fancy, try spending a few
hours with youngsters on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, part of a youth
sign up for a Wacky Wednesday session of Drip Drop Splat, The Plumbers
Nightmare, or Wacky Water Golf.
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.
anybody can find beauty wherever she goes, leave it to Mt. Gretna's
"Flower Lady," Mary Hernley.
wry smile as customers came to her roadside stand last month, she was
giving away what looked (in photo at right) like an ordinary
don't have to plant it or put it in water," she said. "Just
take it home 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
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 year 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
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
Melvin P. Spicer, Jr. (1939-2014)
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 online.
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 online.
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 Timber 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.
Parade, starts from
the Hall of Philosophy, 10 am.
Heritage Festival Stardust Memories, Tabernacle 7
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.
Service with New
Black Eagles, Playhouse 11 am
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
First 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.
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:
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.
Tournament begins, 4 pm
SUNDAY, July 27:
Basic'ly Brass, from Mt.
Gretna United Methodist Church, performs at the 10 am service in the
Mt. Gretna's new year-round calendar appears
online, a service of
the Mt. Gretna Arts Council.
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