TALK OF THE TOWN: Y2K REDUX?
Almost nobody in Mount Gretna these days can remember a time when the lights have flickered, floundered, and failed more often—or for longer—than in the past few weeks.
Bill Care can’t. Mount Gretna Mayor Joe Shay can’t. And they’ve lived here more than a quarter century. Others, comparative newcomers with only four or five years under their belts, acknowledge that they just weren’t cut out to be pioneers. Still others complain of Christmas dinners languishing in their ovens. And after 24, 36 or even 72 hours without lights, heat or water (as happened to some residents in Timber Hills), it was just too much. They headed for . . . well, if not the hills, at least for the Hampton Inn.
What’s going on?
Ice storms sweeping up from the South are part of the answer. Trees weakened by summers of sustained drought are another. More limbs, branches and whole trunks collapsing than ever before. Other clues lurk elsewhere. One may lie in that letter-to-the-editor a Met Ed lineman wrote last year, complaining about the new work rules. Linemen always took pride in working as long as needed to restore power. Now, apparently, they must quit after a certain number of hours on the job. The lineman predicted that future power outages would last longer. So far this season, he appears to be right. Another employee claimed that only 24 Met Ed linemen now cover the Lebanon area, down from nearly 80 several years ago.
Met Ed says it never had 80 linemen in Lebanon County. “While we may be down to around 25 today, the number of linemen is typical for a customer base the size of Lebanon and meets the expectations of utility regulators,” says a spokesman. Met Ed says new technologies allow its crews to work faster and more efficiently. “The attrition that has occurred in the past 20 years is not uncommon based on the technology that’s available,” he said. Overall throughout the Met Ed system, the duration of outages has been steadily declining since 1987.
“The past two storms had significant ice and heavy wet snow, especially in the older sections of Mount Gretna,” said Met Ed’s Scott Surgenoner. “If customers don’t allow us to trim trees, there will be causes and effects --- one of which is tree branches coming down and taking wires with them. That’s just a time-consuming effort no matter what.”
While that’s true, says Bill Care, the major damage and prolonged outages this season have come from trees outside the 10 ft. right-of-way that Met Ed specifies for its primary lines. “In the last storm, some of the most serious problems were in Timber Hills. Even in the borough, most of the problems I saw were from trees outside the right-of-way." At its Jan. 13 meeting, Mount Gretna’s borough council will discuss the matter with a Met Ed forester.
Meanwhile, amid the glow of flashlights, oil lamps and candles, talk in the town now is turning to generators. Borough secretary Linda Bell used one during the first outage, in mid-December, to power her computer and a single lamp so she could prepare the payroll.
Propane-powered generators are best, says a reader, since they don’t need gasoline that not only grows stale but also can be dangerous to keep around the house. Apart from the expense, however, generators can be noisy and, if not maintained properly, won’t start in an emergency when they’re needed. Other folks have even considered stringing up power cords between houses since, in patchwork grids laid out decades ago, some people have lights while their neighbors go dark. Still others wonder about the dubious prospect of gradually burying power lines, even though many say costs and disruptions to tree roots would make the cure worse than the cause.
Bad as it is, it could be worse. Conewago Hills resident Pete Light, who’s been here longer than most, remembers a time in the 30s when only one transformer supplied power to all of Mount Gretna. When the electricity went out—and it went out often, he says—days passed without power.
Meanwhile, those of us floundering in the dark, fretting over uncooked roasts in the oven, and habitually feeling for light switches with one hand even as we grasp flashlights with the other, are developing a renewed appreciation for Ben Franklin’s and Tom Edison’s remarkable discoveries.
THE ELVES DID IT
In a dispatch a couple of weeks ago, those elves who help us gather the news reported that Santa, riding around town on a fire truck just before Christmas, was starting to look a lot like Mount Gretna mayor Joe Shay.
The mayor issued an immediate denial. “Your elves must have been nipping a bit early at the eggnog,” said his honor. “That was me up front, helping drive Santa around town.”
So just who IS Santa? Some insist that Mayor Joe, like Osama, has a double. Maybe several. Others say it was St. Nicholas, or at least a worthy claimant to the name.
Indeed, Ellen Nicholas, of Mount Gretna Heights, reports that fire company secretary Char Bence was up late several nights last year, sewing for Santa a brand-new suit. But neither she nor Char nor Joe will reveal Santa’s true identity.
“It’s Santa,” proclaims the mayor, “just Santa. The real one, straight from the North Pole.” And if that’s what the mayor proclaimeth, it is so ordered. Meanwhile, no more eggnog for those elves.
OUT WITH THE OLD
Nobody’s declaring victory yet in this year’s Battle of the Buzzards. But it surely looks like the tide has turned in our favor.
Last year, more than 600 swarmed into town. This year, only about 75 returned. Most were deterred by a dedicated band of about two dozen volunteers, armed with lights and noisemakers. By Christmas, only about 25 of the most determined birds were still trying to roost here.
Volunteer coordinator Max Hunsicker is cautiously optimistic. He recalls, though, that last January several stragglers appeared from out of nowhere. So his crews are ready. Yet he notes that this year the damage to trees, rooftops, cars and patios is down --- way down.
One of the most surprising deterrents has been those powerful lights that hunters plug into their cigarette lighters to spot deer. “Sometimes, the lights were all we needed,” says Max. “With just the light, you could flush out a tree full of birds. Or, if they were flying by, if you put the light on them they’d usually fly away rather than try to land. I liked lights because they made a lot less noise.”
Despite the apparent success, he thinks the campaign will probably continue for a few more years. After all, for the past quarter century, something has been attracting those turkey vultures to Mount Gretna.
And, as the Harrisburg Patriot reported, one even made it to the top of Bruce and Trish Myer’s flagpole on Temple Avenue New Year’s Eve as some 35 revelers, with trombonist Jim Erdman’s especially mellow rendition of “Auld Lange Syne,” bid farewell to 2002 and maybe even the buzzards, too. See photos: http://www.DalesDelights.com
NEXT STOP, CARDIOLOGY LAB
So just what WAS in those mashed potatoes Bill Care cooked up for the borough crew and council members the Friday before Christmas? Eight ounces of cream cheese, a quarter pound of butter, salt, pepper, with a dash or two of Half-and-Half mixed into five pounds of potatoes.
With ham, turkey, peas and pearl onions, sweet potatoes, and Bill’s signature cranberry relish, he, wife Kay, and secretary Linda Bell served the entire feast and three pies plus a tray full of cookies at the Borough maintenance building.
“Don’t make it sound too glamorous,” says Linda, “or we’ll have the whole town down next year.” Says Bill of those mashed potatoes, “what we don’t eat, we use for glue.” Real artery-clogging stuff, adds Linda. Delicious.
LE SORELLE PORCH ‘N’ PANTRY OPENS NEXT MONTH
If the workmen hurry and the weather cooperates there’s a chance that maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner at the newly remodeled “Le Sorelle Porch ‘n Pantry Café.”
But that’s not sure yet. Snowstorms and power outages are skewing schedules. What IS certain is that Stephanie and Tiffany Lamont, the two sisters from whom “Le Sorelle” gets its Italian name, are eager to start.
They’ll be serving those sticky buns that former owner Barb Acker made famous. “I would like to thank all the faithful customers and hardworking help that made The Porch and Pantry idea a reality for me,” says Barb. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Barb, we hope, may return occasionally to lend a hand to her protégés. Meanwhile, workers began Dec. 30 tearing out the old kitchen and replacing it with a new stove, flooring and cabinetry. Also planned as soon as the weather allows is a new front entrance on the park side, so patrons will no longer have to climb steps to the rear entrance and pass through the kitchen.
The Lamont sisters plan to serve breakfast and lunch Wednesdays through Sundays, opening at 7:00 a.m. so people can stop by on their way to work. They'll be open for non-reservation dinners every Friday night and plan to offer theme dinners several nights a month. They also hope to have a website up soon. Meanwhile, if you’d like to leave a message or pass along your e-mail address for their patron’s list, call 964-3771.
TREES ADIEU, MULCH ADO
Some folks like to hang on to Christmas. But if you want your tree hauled away, you’ll have to get it out to that pickup site along Rt. 117 by Feb. 1. Governor Dick Park’s board donates the site. People whom the Lebanon courts sentence to community service provide the labor. And Lebanon’s Refuse Center (opposite Heisey’s Diner, north of the city on Rt. 72) sells the mulch from ground-up trees.
West Cornwall Twp. Secretary Carol McLaughlin says the drop-off site is for trees only. No tree bags, no tires, and no carpets (all of which, alas, turned up on the site last year).
AT DESIGN CENTER, HOPE NOW SPRINGS FOR SPRING
Construction on the 4,200 sq. ft. Design Center along Rt. 117 will resume in a couple of weeks, weather permitting. Developer John Mitchell hopes to open the building by spring. Besides La Cigale, his own imported fabric business, Mitchell plans space for offices, art galleries and perhaps even a coffee shop in its windowed gazebo.
La Cigale offers French provincial tablecloths, runners, placemats, plates and pottery --- what Mitchell calls “table art” --- to wholesale and retail customers. He invites area residents wishing to preview the growing inventory of provincial materials that he and wife Nancy are collecting at their 420 Pennsylvania Avenue home to call 964-2248 for a private appointment.
YES, DELORES WAS QUITE A LADY
Charlotte Allwein answered that question we asked last July about Delores Shaw Emrick, who once ran Mount Gretna’s art gallery. Rummaging through an antique store last year, a reader had discovered Delores’ remarkable scrapbook and wondered if anyone had known her.
Charlotte, who helps make Mount Gretna’s ice-cream parlor a consistent winner in the annual WITF magazine Readers' Choice surveys, remembers Delores as an artist, always avant-garde in appearance, and “quite a lady.” The Allweins treasure a painting that she once did while sitting out on the steps leading to her gallery. Naturally, it was a painting of the Jigger Shop.
WHERE THE ARTS FLOURISH. . .
Our list of Mount Gretna artists is growing. Here’s the latest update. Please continue to send your additions and corrections. Where the arts flourish, communities thrive.
1. Barbara Acker (pastels, watercolors); 2. Glen Acker (digital and film photography, photo restoration); 3. Arline Althouse (folk art); 4. Shelby Applegate (mixed-media); 5. Eva Bender (watercolors); 6. Jerry Boltz (carvings); 7. Andy Boucher (watercolors, oils); 8. Russ Burke (stained glass); 9. Rodney Cammauf (photography); 10. Art Clagett (photography); 11. Kate Dolan (multimedia); 12. Amy Dove (textiles); 13. Barbara Fishman (watercolors, acrylics, oils); 14. Ryan Fretz (clay and porcelain); 15. Madeline Grey (photography); 16. Dale Grundon (stained glass); 17. Juanita Hetrick (photography); 18. Marian Herr (watercolors, oils); 19. Erika Iskowitz (fibers); 20. Todd Klick (graphic arts); 21. Larry Lombardo (watercolors); 22. Les Miller (jewelry); 23. Ellen Nicholas (watercolors and art teacher); 24. Pearle Kamp Parsells (glass and chinaware); 25. Floss Russell (pottery); 26. Eleanor Sarabia (watercolors, oils); 27. Pegge Shannon (stained glass jewelry); 28. Peg Smith (stained glass); 29. Sharon Teaman (jewelry); 30. Fred Swarr (multimedia); and 31. Royal "Tuffy" Travitz (stained glass).
IN BRIEF (45 Words or Less)
 A Valentine’s Day concert continues Gretna Music’s Elizabethtown College winter series with duo pianists Julia and Irina Elkina. Mount Gretna native Erin Hannigan joins colleagues from the Dallas Symphony and Rochester Philharmonic Mar. 22 with chamber music for flute, oboe, horn and piano. Tickets: 717-361-1508.
 Gretna Theater directors are reviewing several candidates as possible successors to Pat Julian, who left last month following five successful rebuilding years of record-setting attendance. Meanwhile, staffers remind patrons that Jan. 15 is the last day for early bird subscriptions. Tel. 964-3322.
 South Londonderry Twp. may be considering leaf pickups in the Mount Gretna area. Nothing’s definite yet, says secretary Rosemary Kays, but supervisors understand that “the problem is widespread, and growing.”
 Tap Roberts says Wednesdays may still be the most popular night at the Timbers for locals, but, often as not, they’re showing up on other nights as well. “We have a group that comes on Thursdays, another on Fridays. It’s kind of spread out”
 Site preparations for the Governor Dick Nature Center should begin this month. Work on the 2,200 sq. ft. log cabin structure itself won’t start until a state agency approves the revised plans. Officials hope to open the center this spring.
 Scenes of the half dozen snowfalls that already have descended on Mount Gretna this season, pictures of the New Year’s Eve buzzard drop, and Christmas lights are among the highlights appearing on http://www.DalesDelights.com
 Evelyn Duncan left town last week in Gertie, the motorhome she’ll travel around the country in for the next few years. The tireless volunteer promises to keep up with the news from Mount Gretna through this newsletter and to keep readers informed of her adventures.
 Lawn’s emergency medical unit will offer CPR courses to groups of six or more. Linda Bell says cost for the eight-hour course will likely be about $25. To sign up, call Linda at 964-3270.
3 Families receiving gifts at Christmas from those Adopt-a-Family yard sales that Cornwall Police sponsored last year. They included a single mom with seven children, a retired couple, and a single dad raising two youngsters on his own. Police secretary Shirley Trimmer says that funds from the sale, and gifts from members of the Mount Gretna borough crew, totaled $600. And after she bought coal for one family, kerosene for another, and groceries, presents and a fruit basket, only $1.85 was left. She extends thanks to Linda Bell, Bill Care and Scott Cooling, who helped wrap the presents, and to everyone in Mount Gretna who helped make this Christmas extra special.
11 Accidents and eight disabled cars last month in West Cornwall Twp. Not unusual, says Shirley, especially when we have snow and ice.
356 Hours devoted to snow and tree removal this season by Mount Gretna borough crews—so far. That compares to 191 hours for the entire season last year.
2,000 Applications going out this month (with a deadline of Apr. 1) to artists all over America for Mount Gretna’s 29th annual art show, Aug. 16-17. Applications are also available on the web at http://www.mtgretnaarts.com/
6,000 Tickets going on sale this month in Mount Gretna fire company’s raffle for a jet-black Jeep WranglerX. Volunteers hope to sell at least 4,000 $10 tickets to cover the first of ten annual payments on that $163,000 fire truck they’ve just ordered and their new rescue truck. They’ll draw the winning raffle ticket at the annual block shoot in October. Among the places where you can buy tickets: Remember When Gift Shop, The Hideaway, and the Elstonville Sportsman’s Association.
32,000 Amount, in dollars, our fire company must raise each year to pay for the new fire and rescue trucks. “A heavy obligation, but we have no choice,” says vice president Joe Shay. “Thanks to the generosity of our residents, the dedication of our volunteers, and the professionalism, responsibility and accountability of people like our chief Ben Sutcliffe (who also serves as chief of South Annville Twp’s. police department), people want to support us.”
THIS MONTH’S FAVORITE QUOTE
“I always try to think of tomorrow and not yesterday.”
-- Jack Forney, a 90-year-old Libertyville, Ill. real estate broker who as a youth enjoyed summers in Mount Gretna and now, when he’s not working his usual six days a week, returns to visit his sister Betsy Brown (at the corner of Brown and Stevens avenues). Some 200 people turned out recently for Jack’s surprise birthday party. A Chicago newspaper heralded the event with a color photo stretching across four columns. Forneys, clearly, are made of sturdy stuff. Now a great-grandmother, Betsy celebrates her 85th birthday Jan. 21st.
FINALLY. . . HOW THIS LETTER GETS WRITTEN
Someone asked how we find time to write this newsletter.
Some people watch TV. Others do crosswords. Still others develop finely honed skills on the golf course. Since we don’t do any of those well, we relax by writing.
Gerald Lestz, former columnist for the Lancaster New Era, once told us he kept seven different writing projects going simultaneously on seven different typewriters. Shifting from one project to another was merely a matter of moving from one typewriter to another.
Today, computers have replaced typewriters. And when we want to retreat from the rigors of business, we push a button, call up the newsletter file, and switch to writing about a topic and a place that we love.
All the news that’s fit to print? Nope. Some topics we earnestly avoid.
Our specialty is news that uplifts, enlightens and helps bring out the best among people who share our appreciation for all that goes on here. And in Mount Gretna, there are many of them --- all with talent, dedication and a willingness to make a difference.
Thanks for your help in telling others around the world that this newsletter is available, free for the asking, and exists for no other purpose than to help spread goodwill among Mount Gretnans, including those who live here occasionally or only in spirit. Please continue to share your news, your interests, your questions and your enthusiasms.
Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave., Mount Gretna. Tel. 964-2205