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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 19, Tuesday, September 03, 2002


Peering through raindrops dripping off the Porch ‘n Pantry awning last Sunday morning, Larry Roush glanced up from his breakfast and down at the unfamiliar puddles building up along Chautauqua Drive. “It’s good’, he said, “but probably not enough. I put a shovel in the ground two weeks ago. Only a few inches down, the dirt was like powder.”

Indeed, last week’s rare rainfalls are not likely to put a dent in the droughts that have strangled plant life here for five of the past seven years, but every drop helps. And so, the question on everybody’s mind these days is, “How’s Mount Gretna’s water supply?”

Borough crews now are checking our well levels daily. “Routine procedure during a drought emergency,” says public works director Bill Care. Water levels are stable, but Bill remains wary.

Sudden downpours, like the ones that came gushing down the mountain last week, either run off or get absorbed by the dry-as-dust soil. It takes steady rains, like the blessed ones that fell Labor Day weekend, to soak in, recharge the aquifers, and build up groundwater levels. So even though we’re edging closer to the rainfall norm of 27” (last week we were at 24” and rising), the total, says Bill, is misleading. That’s why they keep checking the wells.

How many wells serve Mount Gretna? Eight. Nine if you count the Heights well that collapsed Jan. 1 but continues to emit a welcome trickle and one in the Campmeeting that supervisor Merv Lentz reserves for “a dire emergency.” Others include the Heights’ new well, another serving a few homes in Timber Hills, two in Chautauqua, two others in the Campmeeting, and one at the reservoir. Merv says Campmeeting residents’ water use this year is comparable to other drought periods. (During the seven months of their emergency, of course, Heights residents cut water use nearly in half.)

People in outlying areas who depend on their own wells are cautious. They know that if their wells run dry, the only alternative is to bring water in by truck. One woman who lives on Mine Road told us that, to keep her plants alive, she takes a sprinkler can into the shower every morning and collects cold water before it turns hot. Others recycle dish and wash water. Some have rigged special waste water collection barrels.

Bringing water by truck remains Bill’s worst nightmare. Conservation is the key. Yet some folks, he says, just don’t grasp that. He may have to soon begin cracking down on drought emergency violators. Ornamental fountains that don’t support aquatic life are the most visible offenders. “Some people just don’t get it,” says Bill. “We’ll do what we have to assure that our supplies remain satisfactory.”


When, if ever, will Mount Gretna get cell phones?

A New York Times report says that wireless phones have now displaced 25 percent of all landline use. Maybe in the U.S., but not in Mount Gretna. We saw one woman at the Art Show’s food court struggling to keep a cell phone conversation going. Anyone speaking on a mobile phone in Mount Gretna, of course, is a rare sight. So we asked how she did it. She uses AT&T, but said the static-filled connection to her husband in Camp Hill was the worst she’d ever attempted.

True, some folks are happy to just keep cell phones out of town. Secondhand phone chatter has become such a noise irritant, says a Times editorial, it makes the boom box era, by comparison, “look positively sylvan.”

But many others say folks here ought to benefit from modern technology. They enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding along the trails surrounding Mount Gretna. In an emergency, they point out, cell phones are crucial.

Keith Volker, the chief proponent of a cell tower investment that might yield dividends for community organizations, says the idea of a cell phone tower here isn’t yet dead. The problem is finding a suitable site. Two possible locations north of Rt. 117 had technical problems. Keith is looking for others.

Meanwhile, says the Times, the number of residential and business telephone lines in the U.S. declined last year for the first time since the Depression. Partially that’s because people are switching to wireless to save on phone bills. Nearly three percent of telephone users now have made cell phones their primary telephone. But not in Mount Gretna. Not yet anyway.


Marian Brubaker, the flower and vegetable lady who sets up shop along Rt. 117 on Thursday afternoons, says the tomatoes are smaller this year. No she didn’t plant a different variety. They taste just as good as they did in other years. But they’re smaller. “There was just no moisture, not even any dew in the mornings,” she says. So her modest tomato crop offers further evidence of a drought that meteorologists now call “historic.” She nourishes her xenias with recycled wash water using a barrel and drain that her husband Wilbur rigged up.

Marian, a preacher’s daughter who grew up in White Oak (near Manheim), married (52 years ago) in Bedford and now lives near Mount Joy. She has been a part of the Mount Gretna scene for over 30 years. “Crazy, aren’t I?” she asks. Yet over the years, her Mount Gretna friendships, like her flowers, have grown. And nearly eight years ago she “felt like a kid out of school” when she decided to cut back sales in Mount Gretna to Thursdays only. “The time comes,” she says with a smile, “to start doing what you want to do instead of what somebody else wants you to do.”


“What I liked best were all the smiles coming through my house,” says Ann Shemeta, whose Campmeeting cottage was one of 14 stops on last month’s house tour. (It was a wonderful day for husband Joe, too. He went golfing and fishing, leaving tour arrangement up to Ann and a bevy of tour guides, musicians and others who helped visitors flow through the two-story cottage.) “Everything went smoothly,” she said. “The people were wonderful.”

Tour organizers said that, despite a heat wave that soared to 100 degrees, turnout on Saturday Aug.4 was good. Funds raised benefit Gretna Music, the chamber music and jazz festival ranked as one of the nation’s best. At least four owners of cottages on this year’s tour were people who themselves discovered Mount Gretna on a house tour, some as recently as last year.

Sharon Bostdorf, whose cottage was one of the smallest on the tour, says that what struck her was just how appreciative—and respectful—people were. “They respected your property. And they appreciated being able to come in and see the cottage from the inside. One woman came in, took my hand, and told me how much she wanted to thank us for opening our cottage,” she says.

Sharon’s advice for others thinking about putting their homes and cottages on tour? “Relax. Enjoy it. Enjoy the comments you’ll hear and the appreciation you’ll receive.” At first, she says, she felt a little intimidated because, rather than calling in professionals, she and her husband did most of the renovations themselves. “But people sensed that this is a place of love,” she says. “I want to share that with others.”


How DO they do that? Police officials, emergency teams, exhibitors, patrons and residents still are marveling at just how well everything went at this year’s Mount Gretna art show. “Logistically, this has to be one of the hardest shows to do,” says Bill Care, “yet this was the easiest one I’ve ever been involved in. Usually we’re out picking up traffic cones and taking down detour signs until 9:00 p.m. Sunday. This year, we had everything closed up and ready to go home at 7:15 --- first time that’s ever happened. Somehow, Linda makes it look easy.”

It’s not. The difference is planning. Show coordinator Linda Bell works at it all year ‘round. That, of course, is when she’s not attending to other volunteer duties for the Chautauqua, the Arts Council, her church, and many other organizations. Or to her main job as chief assistant at the Mount Gretna borough office, a task she does superbly 50 weeks of the year, says Bill. “And for two weeks before the Art Show, she’s in charge of me.”


Former Chautauquans Lynee Porter and Jim Polczynski invite everyone to their Cornwall Inn Sunday, Sep. 29 for a Septoberfest. Yes, that’s an Octoberfest for those who can’t wait.

The cause is a good one: raising money on behalf of another former Mount Gretna resident, Wade Balmer, who, says Lynee, is “one of the most inspirational people I know.”

Now a young adult, Wade has suffered from juvenile dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disease that inflames and weakens muscles, since he was five. Next January, at Disneyworld, he’ll try the 13.1 mile Joints in Motion Marathon, something that a few years ago seemed impossible. Proceeds go to research and treatment for children with arthritis.

Helping provide emotional and financial support, Lynee and Jim are cooking up a feast of Polish foods, with a pig roast and potato pancakes, folksingers from the
Liederkranz German club, birch beer and beer tastings from The Lancaster Brewing Company. Guess the weight of the Great Pumpkin and win a night at the inn or two tickets to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Cost: $12 for adults, $5 for youngsters 10 and under. Time: Noon to 4:00 p.m. Call 717-306-6178.

See Wade’s story and learn about juvenile arthritis at

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Ellen Holsopple, Linda Bell and Kay Care averaged 16.5 mph yesterday to finish the Hanover Bicycle Club’s Labor Day Century Ride in six hours. Total distance: 100 miles, a first for all three, who began cycling less than a year ago.

[] Vulture relocation project coordinator Max Hunsicker hopes to keep the effort on a smaller scale than last year but recognises the birds “are persistent”. He will again ask residents to do most of the work, lessening costs and using a USDA team as advisers.

[] Cornwall police secretary Shirley Trimmer seeks donations for a yard sale later this month to benefit a needy family identified by churches and schools. She hopes to raise $500 for clothes, food and fuel oil. Call 274-2071 to drop off donations or arrange for pickups.

[] Works by local artists, vacation packages, jewelry and antiques pour in for Gretna Theater’s Oct. 12 gala and auction in Hershey. Among the donations: “Desert Song,” a large abstract oil by Mount Gretna’s Barb Fishman. Tel. 964-3322 for tickets ($125, or $175 for patrons).

[] Gretna Music offers free extra tickets this month to early bird subscribers signing up for next summer’s concerts. Call 964-3836

[] Astanga yoga classes begin Monday evenings starting Sep 9 at the Heights community building. Pam Willeman offers introductory and intermediate level instruction. For information, call 964-3193.

[] Mayans got a 1,000-year jump on the world’s chocolate lovers. How do we know? Read Campmeeting President Jeffrey Hurst’s article, 2,600 years of chocolate, in Nature magazine:

[] Http:// shows the saga of a hummingbird that fell out of its nest at Dave and Darlene Eckert’s house and other scenes of a busy Mount Gretna summer. Another highlight: Chautauqua’s historical marker dedication ceremonies, with special appearance by William Penn himself.

[] Mount Gretna Men’s Club elected Phil Rader as president last month. He succeeds Ray Kinch, who held the post since 1985, overseeing projects that included major improvements around the tennis courts and pavilion.

[] Brown Ave. resident Roberta Warshaw will help the League of Women Voters hold a “How to Run for Office” workshop Sep. 14 at Harrisburg Area Community College’s Lebanon campus. To sign up ($5), call Bobbie at 964-2019.

[] Former Mount Gretnan Ann White invites prospective buyers to contact her ( about the grand 10,000 sq. ft. Georgian home on Lebanon’s Chestnut Street that, before moving to Florida, she and husband Bob gracefully remodeled throughout (including a new Plain and Fancy Custom Kitchen).

[] Ann also reports that daughter Diana Lucas, who grew up in Mount Gretna, married Thomas Flemma last month in Lakeville, Conn. at the Hotchkiss School, where he is a history teacher and football coach and she is a counselor.

[] WGAL-TV stopped by 102 Brown Ave. last month to interview cottage owners Helyn and Robert Granoff, following Charlton Heston’s announcement that he has Alzheimer’s disease. Heston stayed at the cottage while doing summer stock here in 1948.

[] Borough crews will begin picking up leaves the first Monday in November. As usual. No plans (yet), says Bill Care, to alter the schedule even though the summer’s heat and drought may cause some trees to shed their leaves a bit earlier than normal.

[] Dick Steinhauer says Mount Gretna Inn owner Keith Volker (964-3234) now handles rentals for the recently remodeled, increasingly popular, Heights community building. Mount Gretna Heights Association welcomes restoration project donations, now totaling $13,000 of a $20,000 goal, at P.O. Box 391, Mount Gretna, Pa. 17064.

[] Volunteers cleaning up Conewago Creek (with Mount Gretna headwaters) seek artworks for a benefit show in Middletown Sep. 21-22. Ten percent of sales go to TriCounty Conewago Creek Association, which meets the last Wednesday of each month at Lawn Fire Company. Call (717) 651-0978.


45 Days (maybe) before the oft-delayed construction finally begins on Governor Dick’s Nature Center. Site plan bids will go out in September. Officials hope contractors can begin working on the 2,200 sq. ft. log cabin in October and have it ready by spring.

60 Trees that, by fall, will be in the Campmeeting’s successful memorial tree program honoring friends and relatives.

37 Days over 90 degrees in June, July and August. During the same period last year: 18

200+ Attendees from all areas of Mount Gretna at this summer’s community picnic in the Campmeeting.

400 “Mount Gretna – The Way Life Ought to Be” sweatshirts “Remember When” gift shop sold this summer. Reenie Macsisak says they sold out five times. Husband Joe and fellow Chatauquan Tom Rowe, who came up with the design, are working on another for next year.
Meanwhile, a few 2002 Mount Gretna fire company collector’s series mugs are still available at the gift shop, a location omitted from our listing last month.

19 Fire company volunteers turning out last month for a car rescue training class. “I can’t remember ever having that many at a training session,” says president Keith Volker. “We cut off the roof, removed doors, pushed out the dashboard of a small car in a simulated accident. All went well.” The volunteers plan more sessions this fall.

180,000 Amount, in dollars, our fire company may need to raise for a new “fast attack” engine nimble enough to navigate through Mount Gretna’s narrow streets.

500 Possible fine, in dollars, for violators of a new pooper-scooper law just passed by West Cornwall Township, whose domain includes the Campmeeting and Heights.

124 Parking tickets Cornwall police wrote during June, July and August in Mount Gretna borough, down 26 percent from last summer’s 156 tickets. Steady 90-degree temperatures, some suspect, lessened ticket sales at the theater and, thus, ticket collections at the police station.

300 Hemlocks being sprayed next month to protect against woolly adelgid infestations, says Campmeeting supervisor Merv Lentz. Extension agents say the pest (Adelges tsugae) has no natural enemies in the U.S. and can kill a hemlock tree in as little as three years.

42.2 Million gallons of milk that cows would have to produce in a given year if every available Oreo cookie eaten were also dunked in milk. (Of course, that has nothing whatever to do with Mount Gretna. But some news we just can’t pass up.)


"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." --Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

“Just do it.” -- Nike (2002)


“When I was young,” said the Rabbi Harold Kushner, “I admired clever people. As I grew old, I came to admire kind people.”

Kind people, people who give of themselves, are what make Mount Gretna go. And three of the best will give up their invaluable roles as volunteers this year. One is Evelyn Duncan, whom Gretna Theater will honor Oct. 12 with the Coglin Award, given annually to an outstanding volunteer.

Evelyn has been at it for the past decade. She’ll soon be selling her home in Mount Gretna and taking to the highway in a motor home, which she bought last week. She’ll stick around until January 2, however, to take part in the annual Polar Bear rites. And, occasionally, she’ll return. But for the next three years she plans to travel, seeing friends and relatives around the country.

Also retiring from the Mount Gretna volunteer scene, at least for a while, are Trish and Bruce Myers. Look far and wide, you’ll have trouble coming up with two people who have done more, with greater zest, energy and love, than they. They’ve spread friendship and joy to thousands of visitors to the theater’s concession stand, helped organize volunteer events, steered the season-opening summer gala, and won the admiration and appreciation of folks throughout this community. We hope they’ll be back someday. Meanwhile, they’ve earned a rest. No one has done more. No one has done it better. And no one will be more missed.


Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave., Tel. 964-2205

P.S. If you have friends who might be interested in Mount Gretna, please send this newsletter to them and tell them it’s free for the asking. Many readers also graciously print copies for friends and neighbors who don’t have e-mail. We appreciate that, and so, we’re told, do their neighbors.