The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Mt. Gretna, PA "Not a place, but a spirit."
Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)
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
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"
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
Styleweekly.com'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
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
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)
goes the Latin phrase, which translates roughly
as "nature abhors a vacuum." None
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,"
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.
more than a dozen wild turkeys, which suddenly
reappeared two years ago, continue their daily
patrols throughout the areas surrounding Timber
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
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.
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?
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
Call Met-Ed immediately when
your power fails
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
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.
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.
See also calendars
Raku pottery, First
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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 RogerTGroce@live.com.
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 email@example.com
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
http://gretnamusic.org/ founder Carl Ellenberger's blog (highly
recommended): Check for updates online at
Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society Newsletter -- Online at http://www.mtgretnahistory.org/newsletter.php
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 http://www.nixle.com/.
South Londonderry Township Newsletter -- of primary interest to Mt. Gretnans
in Timber Hills, Conewago
Hill and Timber Bridge; online at http://southlondonderry.org/
online and mailed to residents of the Campmeeting.
Mt. Gretna Heights Newsletter -- e-mailed to Heights residents. Contact Michelle
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.
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
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