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. 154                                                                                                                 September 1, 2014

In Mt. Gretna Heights at the Frog Pond, where writers and artists often come, photographer Jane Mourer found on a day in late August, the busiest month, a hint of the serenity that soon will envelope us once again.   

The new Mt. Gretnans

   Summers end in Mt. Gretna amid a curious mixture of pleasure and sadness. The parking spaces will soon open up in the Campmeeting and on Chautauqua's narrow streets. The crowds will be gone, and so will the "summer people."
   Yet as they shut down their cottages and pack up their vans and SUVs, they take with them more than their household belongings. They also take away a certain spirit, an undeniable joie de vivre that adds sparkle in summer.
   Once they were in the majority, the summer people. When they returned to their permanent homes, those who remained were a distinct minority -- counted in tens rather than hundreds.
   Mt. Gretna is different today. We who make our permanent homes here are now in the majority. Some of us may get away for a time in the winter. But this is where our home is, where we count the 1,500 souls we live among as neighbors and friends in Mt. Gretna's "official" population.
   A few weeks ago, I asked readers to help unravel something that for me has long been a mystery.  Why is it that when we go to a play or a concert in the Playhouse, only about 5% of the audience is made up of faces we recognize as Mt. Gretnans?
   Though no studies are available, I'd guess the percentage of Mt. Gretnans that take part on any given day in other things that go on here -- in our restaurants, community buildings and elsewhere -- also registers around five percent, give or take a few digits. 
   When the summer people made up Mt. Gretna's majority, they participated in everything. They filled seats in the Playhouse, benches in the Tabernacle and chairs in the Hall of Philosophy. Not because they felt obligated, but because that is where their friends were.
   Readers responded with thoughtful answers, including a suggestion that we who have opted to make this our permanent home have different agendas. Many of us chose Mt. Gretna as our refuge from a too-busy world and are happily engaged in quiet pursuits of our own. Our numbers include artists, writers, sculptors, weavers, musicians and others. Almost everyone who lives here has creative instincts that yearn to be fulfilled.
    Add to that the lures of Amazon's streaming movies and Netflex, wide-screen TVs and Google's golden key equivalent to a library that emperors never dreamed of. Faith Popcorn's cocooning prediction has come true. Pour a glass of wine out on the deck, enjoy dinner with our spouse, and then retire to the coziest corner of our homes and cottages to read a book or watch a movie.
    Suddenly the 5% factor is no longer a mystery.
    Moreover, we may be sure that those who drive out to Mt. Gretna from Harrisburg, Lancaster or beyond to see a play or hear a concert come not only to be entertained but also for the change-of-pace glimpse into a world different from their own. An escape from the hurly-burly of modern life and the chance to briefly share an environment that we ourselves find so rejuvenating.
   Make no mistake: the Playhouse they come to is far more than Mt. Gretna's cultural beacon. When it collapsed in 1994 and our future was in doubt, sales of homes and cottages here dropped 50% the same year.
   Such thoughts occurred again last month as the lake filled up with swimmers, crowds streamed into the art show, and couples strolled down to the Jigger Shop and into the Playhouse.
   Why do we do this, I wondered. Why do we do all that we can to welcome others into our midst? Why do we open our homes for the annual house tour? Or serve as ushers and concession stand volunteers at the Playhouse? Why do we give up our time to plan and present summer programs for people who live elsewhere?
   In part it comes from tradition, a way of life that the "summer people" made manifest. A heritage that stems from the Campmeeting and the Chautauqua founders.
   At its essence, the Chautauqua spirit draws from a wellspring of sharing. And in that sense, all of us -- from Mt. Gretna Heights to Timber Hills and beyond -- are Chautauquans.
     Yet perhaps there is an even more broadly encompassing answer.
     "Only a life lived for others is worthwhile," said Albert Einstein.  A friend who had lost his teenage son to a sudden brain aneurysm told me years later, "the comfort and support of our friends taught us that the most important thing in this world is helping others when and where you can."
   That is roughly the framework our predecessors had in mind when they founded this place more than 120 years ago. It remains a reliable touchstone for today.
    -- Roger Groce




2014: Same guy, hat and rain

Tim in the rain, 2013

    It's not exactly an Art Show alert, but we think we've identified a problem.
    It's Tim Nieman's hat. Just plain bad luck, we figure.
    Last year when he wore the same hat, the rains came early on Art Show Sunday and discouraged ticket-buyers at the admission gates.
   This year it happened again. Same guy. Same hat. Same rains.
   Show director Linda Bell figured this year's Sunday showers caused at least 1,000 would-be patrons to turn over and go back to sleep rather than come to the Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show. 
   Allowing for those who came with complimentary tickets and those who paid at the gate, that averages out to about $8.53 per visitor or $8,530 in gate receipts.
   Had the sun shown all day Sunday and with picture-perfect weather on Saturday, it's likely we'd have topped all previous revenue records. Instead the show produced a respectable near-record of $104,814 for the fire company, ambulance services and public service projects throughout the community.
   While declining to comment on Mr. Nieman's chapeau, Ms. Bell nevertheless was pleased with the outcome. 
   Yet there are stirrings afoot: Now begins the Buy Tim a New Hat Campaign.


  Among the more than 500 restaurants, cafes and other places to eat in Richmond, V a., four that rank at the top belong to Kendra Feather, daughter of Conewago Hill residents Joe and Laura Feather.'s just-issued 2014 Power List of the city's most influential people puts the enterprising Ms. Feather at the top of Richmond's food industry in an online article, "Changing the Plate."     It has become an annual tradition of the Mt. Gretna summer.
   Last month, The Friends of Ann Hark gathered at the Tabernacle once again to explore the life and times of Mt. Gretna's most famous writer of mysteries, an "ahead of her times woman" who also wrote for The Ladies Home Journal.

   Leading the discussions were Irene Rollman and Tom Meredith (inset) who also guided explorations into the contributions of Ms. Hark's notable father, Max Hark, an early Pennsylvania educational leader. As its first chancellor, Dr. Hark created the Chautauqua's successful initial programs. He is also credited with rejuvenating the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies in Bethlehem.                                                                 (Madelaine Gray photo)


   Horror vacui goes the Latin phrase, which translates roughly as "nature abhors a vacuum."  None

Nadine Van Tuyle photo.

would more readily agree than this pair of prize Narragansett Turkeys that last month began daily strolls around the pizzeria, former home of Doodle, the legendary Mt. Gretna bantam that ruled the roost for four years here before he met his untimely end in 2012.
   The turkeys didn't dare utter even a gobbling hint, but their haughty struts suggested, "Doodle schmoodle. We're in charge now."
   It didn't take long for fans like Donna Kaplan to respond. "Yes, but it honors Doodle's memory to think it takes TWO to replace him," she harrumphed.
   Alas, the gobblers' reign in Mt. Gretna was short-lived. By Monday after Art Show weekend, they were gone. To the dismay of others who had attempted to catch them, they were transported by a kindly man who reports they stepped eagerly into the back of his truck and are now happily living on his farm. "No, they won't be on anybody's table at Thanksgiving," he promised. "They're pets."

   Meanwhile more than a dozen wild turkeys, which suddenly reappeared two years ago, continue their daily patrols throughout the areas surrounding Timber Hills.

Logan Brunkhurst photo

    It may look fearsome, but it's not. Yet this non-poisonous northern water snake looked for all the world like a rattler as passersby ventured near a spot close to the canoe racks during Art Show weekend.

   It sent teams of police and other emergency responders into action. But the snake, estimated at four to five feet long and seemingly growing fatter by the day, managed to escape. Experts say it will likely continue to dine on a diet of frogs and other creatures that hang out near the water.

    What fooled everyone was its triangular-shaped head. Yet outdoorsman Tom Baum says that's a learned defense: Water snakes can inflate their heads to impress others. Just like politicians perhaps.

   They were just passing through and didn't stay long, but chances are the 400 cyclists on last month's Chocolate Tour will fondly remember Mt. Gretna.
   Where else can you find a rest stop in a town so small it has only one church and a handful of volunteers to roll out the welcome mat for cyclists?    Bent on raising money for melanoma research, the bicyclists paid for the privilege of burning off calories on rides through the Chocolate World of Central Pennsylvania (Hershey, Elizabethtown and Lititz) with rest stops at places like the Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church.
   There church members like Larry and Sandy Hall of Timber Road joined Mike Remel (with a black shirt that left no doubt who was in charge) and Spring Hill Acres resident Eddie Garver dispensing sticky buns, bananas, chocolate muffins and Wilbur buds to the hungry cyclists on their 35-, 50-, 75- or 100-mile rides through hills and valleys where the scent of chocolate has wafted for more than a century.



 Call Met-Ed immediately when your power fails  


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

Call even if your neighbors have also reported the outage, says Met Ed.  

   NOTE:  In extreme weather, the Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter during power outages of more than three hours. Bring medications and medical equipment, sleeping bag or blanket, food for yourself and family members, books, games and other materials to help pass the time.  

No facilities available for pets.    It was probably the longest meeting and most thoroughly threshed-out topic the Pennsylvania Chautauqua stockholders had ever confronted.
   But their nearly five-hour meeting and closeness of the vote revealed the depth of their concerns, the complexities of the issue and the undeniable tug on their hearts, regardless of which side they ultimately came down on.
   Yes, they wanted an art school in Mt. Gretna. But no, they didn't want to risk taking an action that might disrupt their fragile deed restrictions and send their only protection against inappropriate uses of historic Chautauqua cottages in the future tumbling down a slippery slope.
   In the end, their fears of losing a protective deed defense won out, and the motion to convert a vacant cottage into a residence hall for art students was defeated. But only by a slender margin out of 240 cast in a 127-113 ballot, both in person and by proxy.
  Thus the school will continue to operate out of temporary locations scattered throughout Mt. Gretna with the support and well wishes of practically everyone who assembled in the Hall of Philosophy Aug. 22.
   School officials say they're already looking at alternate sites for another permanent facility that might be suitable. The school has just finished its second successful year. It operates only six weeks during the summer and attracts art students from colleges and universities throughout the USA, along with a blue-ribbon faculty from leading institutions around the world.
   Only about 20 students qualify for the instruction, but the intensive in-depth immersion studies into specialized art subjects are much sought-after. The idea is to provide what even America's best art schools cannot, at least with the extended time and individual attention the Mt. Gretna School of Art can offer.
   The school at Pennsylvania's Chautauqua was spawned from an idea originally established at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. That program offers enrollment to about 40 students each summer but often must turn down an equal number because it lacks the space to accommodate them. Its director Don Kimes has referred those it cannot accept to the Mt. Gretna School of Art headed by his former student Jay Noble. Mr. Noble is a Lancaster resident who has taught at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in Lancaster and is currently teaching at the School of Art in York.
   Mr. Noble says the vote and gratifying support voiced by residents energizes his plans for next year, and the search will continue for a permanent facility that will give "traction" to the Mt. Gretna School of Art as it grows. Plans are now underway for the session in 2015, with invitations to qualified students going out shortly.












(Things that

since calendars

were published,   

editors' picks 

and "don't miss" suggestions  

from readers.) 



See also calendars listed below.  

  Birdwatching every

Friday morning

Raku pottery, First Friday





Friday, Sept. 5:

Morning Bird Walk every Friday with Sid Hostetter, meets at the Chautauqua parking lot at 9 am. Around 11, they return for lunch.

First Friday in Mt. Gretna features the works of guest artists.
At La Cigale Gallery will be Phil Jurus, whose interests include carving tree burls into utilitarian and sculptural objects. He will exhibit furniture and hand-carved pieces, each individually unique. Acoustic guitarist, instructor and singer Patsy Kline provides musical entertainment drawn mainly from Bluegrass inspirations.


Sculptor Barbara Wank, who creates freestanding and wall pieces in clay and tile mosaics, will be at Hickey Architects. Included in Ms. Wank's display will be some of her earlier ceramic works (hand-formed plates and wall sconces).

The nearby offices of Penn Realty will take on the pottery accents of artist Darlene Kegel who is now following a 15-year career in clay working with new ventures into raku, a type of Japanese pottery. Her works draw on diverse materials including horse hair, sawdust and sugar.

At Le Sorelle, Millersville University graduate Suzanne Bruhn (an emerging artist in the 2014 Mt. Gretna Art Show) will display sewing and fiber works. Music by flutists Bish Wolfe and Mary Zehring, who share a love of performing in area concert bands.

And at The Timbers, the oil paintings and other works of noted Lebanon artist Bob Heilman will be on display (including a striking new snow-covered scene of the iconic Mt. Gretna home that for more than 30 years was the residence of Jack and Jeanine Bitner) together with the music of guitarist Jay Umble Duo and bead weaving jewelry by Shana Smith.

The Unexpected Surfer Boys (who were here in a "Jersey Boys" season opener) return for this tribute to music of the Beach Boys and Broadway at the Playhouse, 7:30 pm. (Note: a special Gretna Theatre First Friday fundraiser -- with barbecue, craft beer, and art at the Hall of Philosophy -- precedes the show and requires separate tickets).

6th Annual Small Artworks (12" and under) month-long show begins at Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art Gallery. Among 80 artists expected to participate are many with ties to Mt. Gretna: Glenn Acker, Eva Bender, Luise Christensen-Howell, Reed Dixon, Barb Fishman, Madelaine Gray, Robert Heilman, Dan Hottenstein, Faith Mumma, Margaret Seidenberg-Ellis, Betsy Stutzman and Jean Zaun. Artists' reception Sept. 5 from 5 to 8 pm.

Saturday, Sept. 6:

4th Annual Root Beer Barrel Day to benefit Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. Hot dogs and barbecue, cold tapped root beer, whoopie pies, apple dumplings, T-shirts and caps. Mountain bike raffle at noon. Rte. 419 at the Trail Head, Cornwall. 10 am to 2 pm

Insect Safari Do meadow insects differ from those that live under trees? Discover fascinating creatures on this catch, identify and release adventure. Gov. Dick Park 1 pm

Sunday, Sept. 7:

Choral Arts Philadelphia (Philadelphia's premier chamber chorus) perform Rachmaninov vespers (click here for excerpt) at the Playhouse, 7:30 pm. Tickets available online.

Monday, Sept. 8:

Wing Night at the Hideaway's annual fundraiser benefits Mt. Gretna firefighters (who'll collect donations) as patrons enjoy a dozen fre*e wings.

Friday, Sept. 12:

Toddlers in Tow.  A walk in Gov. Dick Park for two-to-five-year-olds. 10 am

Saturday, Sept. 13:

Webelos Naturalist Pin Workshop at Gov. Dick Park. Discover poisonous plants, venomous reptiles and bird flyways.  $5 per Scout (pack a lunch). 10 to 1 pm

Pig Roast  This annual pork-eating fest ranks among Mt. Gretna's social highlights and brings its summers to a fitting close. Underline it in thick red letters on your calendar. It's one of the Mt. Gretna Fire Company's happiest fundraisers, with a complimentary local craft beer available from 5 to 7:30.

   Former Hideaway restauranteur Jason Brandt handles the culinary chores with the deft touch of a premiere porcine chef having few peers. Scratch whatever else lingers on your calendar and make a beeline for this one. 4 to 10 pm

Evening with Wess Cooke, country singer and American Music Theater regular at the Timbers, 7 pm.

Sunday, Sept. 14:

Fitness Hike. A fast-paced 5- to 6-mile hike at Gov. Dick Park. 9 am

Beauty in our Backyard art auction and craft fair at Gov. Dick Park's first annual fundraiser. 1 to 4 pm

Special Dinner Concert at Lebanon's Trattoria Fratelli restaurant with Allen Krantz, guitarist, and Mimi Stillman, flutist, closes out Music at Gretna's 2014 summer series of Russian music. Works by Prokofiev, Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov, all arranged by Mr. Krantz for flute and guitar. Tickets available online. 6 to 9:30 pm

Thursday, Sept. 18:

Methodist 101 A four-week class examing the Methodist Church, its roots, organization, mission focus and ministry in today's world. Led by Dave Garver and Pastor Mike Remel. MGUMC, 6:30 pm

Saturday, Sept. 20:

Intro to Bouldering A class for all ages at Gov. Dick Park. Call ahead 964-3808 for bouldering shoe rentals ($3). 1 to 4 pm (rain date Sept. 21).

Sunday Sept. 21:

Church Picnic Everyone's invited to join their friends and neighbors at the Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church picnic following their 10 am worship service at nearby Gretna Glen campground on Old Mine Road. Bring a dish to share, make a $5 per adult donation to cover campground fees. No charge for children. Starts around 11:15 am

Wildflowers of Speedwell Forge Park.  Meet at Gov. Dick Park center then carpool to Speedwell. 8:45 am

Friday, Sept. 26:

Sensory awareness walk at Gov. Dick Park. Although the senses never turn off, we often don't use them; this experience increases our awareness. 6 pm.

On an evening right after the art show, a sudden solitude takes hold. Elaine Hartman photo


For additional information, see the Mt. Gretna Arts Council's calendars in both print (summer) and online (year-round) versions. Also available by email during the summer is This Week in Mt. Gretna.





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 

Mt. Gretna Bible Festival Newsletter -- Mailed in the spring and fall without charge. Send request to Bible Festival, P.O. Box 408, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.

Governor Dick Park Newsletter -- Online and by e-mail. See 

Cornwall Police Department E-Mail Bulletins -- issued as warranted to update residents on events of community interest, including crime alerts. To add your name to the mailing list, register at    

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,   


       I try not to repeat this section too often, but occasionally it helps me remember not to get too wrapped up in what started out a dozen years ago as nothing more than a retirement pastime.
     If you're a new reader, you may want to know this newsletter has no official status whatsoever. It produces no income and has no special ax to grind. I write it simply because it helps keep my 74-year-old brain more nimble than it would otherwise be at this point. Even more valuable is that it keeps me in touch with interesting people, most of whom share my fondness for Mt. Gretna.
   Much as I'd like to, I don't have the time or energy to cover everything. And I also find that some topics are better left to daily newspapers, TV and other media.
   I focus almost exclusively on Mt. Gretna and depend on readers to alert me to news, obituaries especially. I'll bet obituaries are read the most. Now that I'm an old geezer, I find myself drawn to them a lot more than I used to.
    In preparing each issue, I try to keep in mind the late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas. As he spoke he imagined that listeners had invited him into their living rooms. I imagine I'm writing for folks sitting down at their kitchen table with a cup of coffee in their hand. They don't want to be jarred or burdened with anything too heavy. I also sometimes imagine that I'm writing to my sister Anne back in Virginia, where I grew up. She's two years older and smarter than I am, but she doesn't know much about Mt. Gretna. So I try to include a little background on the things that I write about. I figure that since most of my readers live outside Mt. Gretna, they may appreciate that context as well.
   From time to time, especially when I'm writing about matters likely to be controversial, I reach in my pocket to retrieve a special coin that carries Rotary International's Four-Way Test of the Things We Think, Say or Do. It's a reminder that we should approach things by asking: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?" In journalism it's not always possible to pass all of those tests, but it doesn't hurt to try.
   I strive to get this newsletter out on the first day of each month unless I'm traveling, ailing or swamped by family responsibilities that take higher priority. Now that I'm getting older, that takes more effort. I've got to remember to squeeze in time for things like inserting new hearing aid batteries, walking Winston and keeping appointments with a growing list of doctors. Travel also eats up energy. I like to stay put in one place for as long as I can. But that's not always possible when Carol wants to go somewhere. It pays to keep wives happy, as everybody knows.

   Roger Groce

 P.S. This newsletter uses a commercial distribution service, Constant Contact, to send email copies to readers around the world. I tried to do it manually, but it got to be too much. With over 2,000 names on the mailing list, it would take me two days, maybe three, to send by ordinary email. Now, I can do it with one click. The modest monthly fee I pay seems a bargain. Guys I know who are woodworkers pay a lot more for the tools and lumber their hobbies require.

        To ensure delivery to your inbox, please add to your address book/contacts.

        Please avoid the "Safe Unsubscribe" hyperlink below unless you're certain that you no longer want to receive the newsletter. Every month, it seems somebody accidentally hits that link. When someone "Safe Unsubscribes" with a newsletter that you have forwarded to them, the address they delete is yours. It sometimes takes a devil of a time to get you back on the list. I can't do it for you. You have to subscribe yourself, from your own computer; you can do that by clicking here

        Privacy policy: Subscriber addresses are never sold, rented, traded or intentionally shared with anyone. Although I once goofed and hit the wrong key, sending about 200 email addresses soaring into cyberspace. So be careful. You're dealing with an old geezer.


              The Mt. Gretna Newsletter Five Time All-Star Award Winner

Join Our Mailing List