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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 18, Wednesday, July 31, 2002


Those occasional sudden downpours help, but not enough. In Mount Gretna and throughout much of southeastern Pennsylvania, the drought emergency continues. Public works supervisor Bill Care expects that Gov. Mark Schweiker will soon extend emergency restrictions for the second time this year.

With no significant rainfall since early June, the deficit now stands at 10 inches. Forecasters predict below normal precipitation during the next three months, a critical recharge period.

Soaring temperatures have meant that what rain does fall quickly evaporates, says Bill. He urges residents to avoid using ornamental fountains, washing cars, and watering lawns. “I want everyone to understand that we are still in an emergency,” he says.

See the website for a county-by-county update on Pennsylvania’s drought emergency.

Meanwhile, grateful Heights residents threw a party for the entire Mount Gretna community Jul 20, thanking neighbors for providing water through fire hoses to the 69 homes there. The emergency followed a collapse of the Heights’ 80-year-old well New Year’s Day.

The celebration continues this week as workers take final steps to turn on the new well and ease the restrictions under which Heights residents have been living for the past seven months. Officials plan to sell three parcels of ground as additions to existing lots and perhaps one or two new building lots to help pay for the new well. They will also seek a Pennsylvania state grant to fund an interconnecting link with the Mount Gretna Authority. The link will help guard against possible water shortages in the future.


Plans to widen Pinch Road from the Lancaster County line northward to Rt. 117 have been delayed. Again.

Construction now won’t start until after the Art Show, maybe closer to the end of August or early September, says PennDot.

The problem is an aging and balky milling machine, which Lebanon PennDot shares with Lancaster PennDot. Milling machines grind up the old roadway, clearing the way for new pavement. Maintenance problems have disrupted this summer’s construction schedules. The milling machine is now in its final season and will be replaced next year.

PennDot supervisor Dale Good says that once the Pinch Road project begins, he expects to complete the job in two days. Plans call for broadening the approximately 20-foot wide road in Lebanon County so it matches the 22-foot width on the Lancaster County side. Dale says they intend to widen the entire road, except for the downhill slope bordered by stone drainage ditches. “We’re probably going to leave most of that alone,” he promises.


Standing ovations and spectacular stars at Gretna Theater haven’t been enough to offset staggering temperatures this summer says director Pat Julian. “Attendance is down,” he says, “not dramatically, but with expensive shows and Tony award-winning stars we need to fill the theater every night.” Excessive heat is one culprit. The sluggish economy may be another, he suspects.

Now in his fifth season here, Pat, ever the optimist, says that despite the weather it looks as if “Hank and The Honky Tonk Heroes” could break all records. And tickets for the upcoming “Sanders Family Christmas” (a “Smoke on the Mountain” sequel) are, he says, “selling like crazy.”

The Aug. 9 tribute to Frank Sinatra is almost sold out. That’s this year's Thomas Ebright tribute concert, sponsored annually by the Arts Council and Gretna Theater to honor the man who helped rebuild the century-old theater after it collapsed under tons of snow in 1994. Plans are well underway for the Theater’s popular Gala and silent auction coming up in Hershey Oct. 12. Call 964-3627 to reserve tickets.


It’s certainly not a major outbreak, but several Mount Gretna residents have been treated this summer for Lyme disease. So we thought it best to pass along a reminder. One resident over the past two years was hospitalized by the illness. Risk is highest during the spring, summer and early fall months, says Symptoms include an expanding skin rash and flu-like symptoms.

Ticks that spread Lyme disease are about the size of a poppy seed, and their bite is usually painless. People are often unaware that they have been bitten. Early detection and treatment with antibiotics normally prevents long-term ill effects, we’re told. Bill Care says that, as a precaution, every member of the Borough crew has been immunized.


Favorite foods at Mount Gretna’s restaurants and delicatessens? Our survey wasn’t scientific, but we asked owners and managers to cite the most-frequently requested items on their menus. Their answers:

Porch ‘n’ Pantry [] “Sticky buns and poached salmon with tarragon and mushrooms,” say Barb and Glen Acker. “These two --- one from the breakfast menu, the other from the dinner menu --- are by far the most requested items.”

Mount Gretna Deli [] The favorites are the Italian sub (“definitely No. 1,” says Bob Andrews) followed by his famous Turkey subs.

Colebrook Inn [] Seafood combo: broiled scallops/shrimp/crab with melted provolone cheese. Next most popular: pan-fried flounder.

The Hideaway [] Crab cakes are the overwhelming favorite, followed by Wings and the Hideaway’s own snake sauce. Snake sauce? “It’s too hot for me, but we sell it by the bottle,” says Linda Brandt. Spaghetti is also a traditional favorite, and some patrons purchase extra jars of the Hideaway’s famous spaghetti sauce.

Timbers [] The hands-down winners, says manager Tap Roberts, are the Timbers’ famed baked French onion soup, followed by the petite filet and petite Kiev combination.

Jigger Shop [] Jiggers, the top choice today, probably have always been No. 1 since they were first concocted in 1910. Next most popular items nowadays: Caesar salads (with grilled chicken or blackened grilled crab), French fries, and four different kinds of wraps.

Tony’s Mining Company [] The Company Special (on the menu for 28 years) consisting of two crab cakes and a filet mignon. Second most popular item? “Definitely, it’s the slow-roasted prime rib,” says Jean Kotkas.

Collins Grocery [] Patrons here prefer small ham boats and Italian subs. The Colebrook neighborhood store prepares three to four dozen sandwiches every weekday.

Twin Kiss [] Cheese steaks and the homemade root beer they’ve been serving here for more than 40 years.


Invitations for bids on the new Governor Dick Nature Center will go out in August. . . about 90 days later than originally planned. Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Natural Resources asked for design changes to provide a covered roof over the area where buses will drop off passengers. Officials now expect construction to begin sometime this fall.

Once the 2,200-square-foot building is completed, no further construction is planned. “Other than a 100-foot driveway, there are no roads to build and no more trees to remove,” says board member Carol McLaughlin, noting that she, too, has seen several “Stop the Governor Dick Chainsaw Massacre” bumper stickers. She says that plans call for trees removed from the construction site to be replanted after the center is built.

The once-intense controversy surrounding the log cabin structure now appears to have abated. Carol says that in contrast to the 50 or 60 protestors who turned out for Governor Dick's board meetings earlier this year, only one couple attended last month’s session.

The board appointed a support committee of volunteers representing the Audubon Society, Rails-to-Trails, Lebanon County Conservation, Horseshoe Trail, Mountain Bikers as well as an adjacent property owner, a volunteer from Quentin, Keith Volker, representing the Mount Gretna fire company and Charles Allwein, of Mount Gretna’s borough council. Fourteen other persons, including a biology professor, an amateur astronomer and several Mount Gretna area residents have volunteered to serve on sub committees.

Governor Dick’s board normally meets the third Thursday of each month at the West Cornwall Township building, 73 South Zinns Mill Rd. Activities of the Friends of Governor Dick are posted at


A reader asks if anyone remembers Delores Shaw Emrick, who apparently once ran an art gallery in Mount Gretna. Rummaging through an antique store several months ago, he discovered a scrap book she once owned, filled with photos, newspaper clippings, art notices and other memorabilia. “She must have been an amazing woman,” writes Jesse Engle. “The scrap book is fabulous. There must be someone who would treasure it.”


Honored at the fire company’s recent volunteer picnic: Scott and Jane Zellers and Tom and Edie Miller. Both couples pitch in for fundraising activities, including the annual classic car show, a “Mount Gretna Eats” cookbook that a few years ago raised some $6,000, and the popular collectors edition coffee mug series, which depicts a different Mount Gretna scene by artist Eleanor Sarabia each year..

They also help in many other ways, often quietly and unnoticed. “Without them --- indeed without all the other volunteers who support us --” says vice president Joe Shay, “we could not provide the level of protection for our community that we now enjoy.”


We recently reported on the “Heston Slept Here” claims attached to so many Mount Gretna cottages. Harry Balmer of Manning, S.C. spent summers here from 1938 to 1952 and confirms that Charlton Heston did indeed rent a room at the 102 Brown Ave. cottage of Mary Sell and her son Sherm. Several reports also affirm that Mary once rebuked the actor for eating peanut butter in her dining room straight from the jar.

“If Mary ever raised her voice to Chuck Heston, he would remember it,” writes Harry Balmer. “When Sherm was at our house and she yelled for him to come home, I always feared for our windows. She could peel and core an apple at 25 yards with her voice if she raised it.”

It appears that Heston’s busy summer schedule coupled with a nagging leg injury will not permit him to return, as hoped, to help celebrate Gretna Theater’s 75th anniversary season.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] William Penn (yes, THE William Penn) will join State Rep. Edward H. Krebs and historian Jack Bitner Aug. 3 to dedicate the recently approved state historical marker honoring Pennsylvania’s Chautauqua. The ceremony begins at 2:00 p.m. in Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy (community building).

[] The newly remodeled Hideaway tavern seeks Mount Gretna artifacts to display on the walls. They’ll copy and return photos or articles loaned to them. One patron donated a 1952 Gretna Playhouse poster. Especially sought: early pictures of the Hideaway itself.

[] Art Show co-founders Reed Dixon and Bruce Johnson will be honored at an exhibition Aug. 16-Sep. 5 at Lancaster Galleries West in Elizabethtown. For details, see the website

[] Jack Brubaker just published “Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake,” a 277-page history of the river, its culture and economic contributions (Pennsylvania State University Press, $34.95). A Lancaster newspaper columnist, he’s the son of former Chautauqua residents Marie and the late John H. Brubaker, Jr.

[] Some Mount Gretnans, unable to take advantage of cell phone economy plans, are using AT&T’s prepaid phone cards (03.47 cents a minute at Sam’s Club) to lower their long distance bills. They speed-dial the lengthy codes, recharging extra minutes as needed using ordinary credit cards.

[] Refuse collectors change their pick-up day from Monday to Tuesday following Labor Day. Normal Monday pick-ups will resume Sept. 9. Half of us forget about the two Tuesday pickups (after Memorial Day and Labor Day) every year says Linda Bell.

[] The Economist Magazine last week cited Campmeeting resident (and Hershey Foods chemist) Jeffrey Hurst for his studies into early preparations of chocolate, dating to 600BC. Other media reporting his research include USA Today, National Geographic, CNN and the BBC.

[] Robin May offers tutoring in reading and math for kindergarteners through fifth graders. She’s a fourth generation Mount Gretnan who recently returned to live here permanently. Contact her at and 964-3748 or 964-1372.

[] Borough crews will remove more Carnegie Ave. asphalt this fall, replace it with brownstone paths, and convert remaining areas between the Jigger Shop and gift shop to parkland. Garden club members will help with additional landscaping.

[] The Pennsylvania Chautauqua elected five members to its 15-member board last month: Allan Feldman, Larry Roush, Peter Hewitt, Fred Buch and Jack Anderson. Chautauqua voters also unanimously adopted revised by-laws following agreement to delete a proposed ten-year limit on leases for buildings and land.

[] Newly elected officials in Mount Gretna Heights include Emi Snavely, president, and new director Ray Petkosh, who joins the 10-member board.

[] The Cicada Festival begins at the Playhouse Aug. 6. Performances by jazz musician Tom Strohman, the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters (sold out), emerging artists from nationally acclaimed schools of music, Schoolhouse Rock and Proteus Seven headline the weeklong evening series. Ticket information: 964-2046.


92 Turnout (including one absentee ballot) at Mount Gretna’s May 21 primary. Votes for governor: Fisher 43, Rendell 25, Casey 6.

14 Stops on this year’s tour of Mount Gretna homes, cottages and gardens Sat. Aug. 3. For a description of the tour stops, see Special Events at

100 Fire company coffee mugs (featuring Eleanor Sarabia's 2002 design of the Mount Gretna library) still available. . . on sale for $9 at the Porch n’ Pantry, Mount Gretna Deli, The Hideaway, Collins Grocery, and Playhouse snack bar.

280 Artists invited to this year’s Aug. 17-18 Art Show.

17,917 Art Show attendance last year. In 2000, the total was 19,854; in 1999, it was 15,777.

4 Judges who selected the artists to appear in this year’s Art Show (including a jeweler whose works have appeared in the Philadelphia Museum and Smithsonian shows, a multi-media artist from Millersville and two Reading-area artists specializing in two-dimensional works.)

10 Gallons of water per minute, 24 hours a day, being produced by Mount Gretna Heights’ new well.

7,000 Gallons of water per day that Heights residents, living under emergency restrictions, have been limited to using for the past seven months. Normal usage: approximately 13,000 gallons a day.

2d Place finish for Mount Gretna superintendent Bill Care (in a field of 35 cyclists over age 50) at a Maryland race; the next day, at a race in suburban Philadelphia, he finished 7th in a field of 40. And last weekend, in a Virginia race with 60 other “very good racers,” Bill came in 8th—“putting him on cloud nine,” says Linda Bell.

75 Miles ridden in a single day (at an average speed of 14.5 mph) by Linda, who began cycling not quite a year ago.

50 Miles ridden by bicyclist Kay Care, accompanied by Timber Hills resident Ellen Holsopple. . .fulfilling a dream for them both.

25,000 The cost, in dollars, of Mount Gretna’s HarTru tennis courts which must be watered by hand (in drought emergencies, automatic sprinklers are banned) to assure the finely ground green stone surface won’t dry up and blow away.


Don’t measure your life by how many breaths you take. Measure it by how many times you get your breath taken away. -- Anon.


Something seemed especially gratifying about the party that Heights residents gave July 20th to thank the entire Mount Gretna community for helping out after their well collapsed last January. It may have been the realization that we’re all in this together, and that we depend on each other. . . often in ways that we ourselves don't realize.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that neighbors have invited neighbors to join in their celebrations. Mount Gretna’s Campmeeting holds an annual picnic in July – complete with hot dogs, hamburgers and other picnic fare – inviting their neighbors and friends throughout the greater Mount Gretna community --- on both sides of Rt. 117 --- to join in. And Chautauqua’s grand Fourth of July celebration is an open invitation to one and all.

Mount Gretna is a special place, as we all know. Just what makes it so special will probably always remain elusive. But we suspect that Mount Gretna Inn owner Keith Volker may be on the right track. He says that guests walking over to the Playhouse or the Jigger Shop often return with comments on how many friendly greetings they receive from folks sitting out on front porches. “That’s the difference between Mount Gretna and typical suburban communities," he says. "It’s the difference between front porches and back decks. In suburbia, people tap their garage door openers, back out into their driveways, go to their office parking garages, push the elevator button to be swept up into their offices, and do the same thing at night, returning to enter their suburban cocoons and spend the rest of the evening out on their decks, separated from their neighbors.”

Others have told us the same thing. One resident whose home is on this year’s house tour says she has more friends in Mount Gretna after being here only two summers than she has in a suburban York community where she’s lived for 24 years. A Dauphin County resident told us that at home she knows the folks living to her immediate right and left, but no one else. “Here in Mount Gretna,” she says, “I bring my breakfast out on the front porch, see what my neighbors are having, and we swap back and forth. At night, we’re all out on our porches and we talk.”

Front porches vs. back decks. Is that what makes us different? Whatever it is, may it forever remain so.

Best wishes to one and all. Roger Groce 213 Stevens Ave., Tel. 964-2205