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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 24, Wednesday, March 19, 2003


For the past ten weeks, they had been plowing acres of snow. Up early in the morning. Out in the cold late at night. Spreading truckload after truckload of salt --- 300 tons so far --- and the season not yet over. Meanwhile, the never-ending ordeals of coping with power outages one day, downed trees the next, plus a mind-numbing assortment of frozen pipes and falling limbs puncturing holes in rooftops (at least two in the Tabernacle itself), causing consternation for the owners of homes and cottages throughout Mount Gretna.

Toughest winter on record for our maintenance crews? Well, maybe not the 90 inches of snow we had in 1994. But snowfalls on at least 12 different occasions in February, some back-to-back, setting records for a single month. What it all adds up to is more hours logged behind the wheels of snowplows, which in February gulped 630 gallons of diesel fuel, 155% more than during the same period last year. And the level of fatigue? Probably higher this winter than in the past four.

What to do?

Head for the Althouse cottage, of course. It’s time for Arlene’s famous fassnachts.

About 20 neighbors joined Arlene and Mayor Joe Shay last week to say thanks to snowplow operators Joey Wise, Scott Cooling, Scott Krissinger, Bill Care and, of course, that newest driver on the intrepid snowplow team, borough secretary, art show director, and horseback-riding/cycling enthusiast Linda Bell. It was a time for, if not celebration, at least a momentary pause for relaxation.

More than a month after the 24-inch surprise snowfall that stunned Mount Gretnans in mid-February, even as the fassnachts were emerging from Arlene’s cozy kitchen, over a foot remained.

“It just wouldn't melt. The most cantankerous snow I’ve seen in years,” said borough president Chuck Allwein. “The kind of winter our grandparents used to talk about,” added Mervin Lentz, whose responsibilities as Campmeeting superintendent have included scraping snow from the Tabernacle roof on two occasions and running generators to keep well pumps working , sometimes more than 24 hours at a stretch, during repeated power failures.

Fassnachts, however, never experience power failures. For centuries, those remarkable delicacies of the Pennsylvania Dutch have been fending off the hunger pangs of Lent. And fassnachts (as every Dutchman knows) are delicious, filling, and 100% guaranteed to add pounds. One of Mount Gretna's favorite folk artists, Arlene Althouse turns out a variety that is especially tempting. And after a winter like this, nobody seems much concerned about an extra pound or two.

What everyone does care about, however, is expressing appreciation to the borough, Campmeeting and West Cornwall Twp. crews that have helped keep the streets and paths of Mount Gretna as clear as any anywhere in the Northeast.

Meanwhile, a report from Mim Enck, sighting on Feb. 18th the first robins of the season. And on two mornings last week, Dale Grundon spotted Canadian geese heading north. Robins? Fassnachts? Geese? Clear evidence that the end finally is in sight.


First customers at Le Sorelle Porch ‘n Pantry have been surprised (pleasantly so) by the new look. Most want a peek at the new kitchen. One elderly gentleman paused after savoring his meal and asked how Barb was. (Fine, thanks). “Does she like the renovations?” (She does). “Where IS Barb?” (In Colorado, skiing with her family).

“I don’t think he knew that Barb had retired," says new owner Stephanie Lamont, who runs the café with sisters Tiffany and Jessica. "Yet he seemed pleased that, with all the changes we had kept the charm.”

Her customers are also pleased that those famous sticky buns are back, tasty as ever, and filling the bustling cafe atmosphere with aromas that say, leaving no doubt, “Welcome to Mount Gretna.”

Stephanie, who graduated from Penn State with a degree in marketing last May, says that what surprises her is all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making the café hum. “But when you see the house full and the customers happy, it’s worth it.”

Customers sometimes call a week ahead for reservations (964-3771). Some regulars have standing reservations on weekends, and groups of up to 12 find it helpful to call in advance to reserve a table. In Italian, Le Sorelle means “the sisters.” And in Mount Gretna, it seems to also mean success.


Stories We’d Like to Read Dept.: All those youngsters who’ve worked at the Jigger Shop over the past decades. Often gifted, always polite, and uncommonly bright (no cash registers or calculators allowed as they juggle multiple ice-cream and soda orders, adding them in their heads), one suspects the Jigger Shop alumni roster would be an impressive Who’s Who in business, science, education, and the arts.

Take, for example, Erin Hannigan, who grew up along Timber Road and worked at the Jigger Shop for four summers. While she wasn’t studying at Palmyra High, she was perfecting her skills as an oboist. Erin joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra two years ago, and this Saturday (Mar. 22) she returns to perform with The New Texas Chamber Players in Gretna Music’s winter series at Elizabethtown College. Seated in the audience when the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. will likely be the entire Allwein family, which runs the Jigger Shop and, year in and year out, holds youngsters to high standards. In the process, they deliver extracurricular training in punctuality, courtesy, honesty, accountability, and proper personal conduct that few summer jobs can match.


One thing about harsh winters. They bring people together. We’ve heard from more people this year than ever. Among them:

[] Former residents like Dawn and Doug Bedell, who once lived on Brown Avenue and now overlook the Susquehanna River from their home in downtown Harrisburg.

[] Former borough councilman Randy Reed, who transferred a few years ago to North Carolina and says they use a snow removal technique there called “sun melt.”

[] Bob Good and Ann White, who pass along from Naples, Fla. an historic account of Robert Coleman’s week-long party in Mount Gretna 114 years ago, complete with fireworks, tub races, ring dances, and other fun.

[] Alice Burgdorfer and Lavinia Berdge, formerly of Lancaster Ave., who now look out on the hills surrounding Prescott, Ariz. but still hold “wonderful memories” of Mount Gretna.

[] Ned and Emily Wallace, who spend part of each summer at their Brown Avenue cottage and now are in southern Africa, helping attend to Swaziland’s 35 percent of the adult population that is HIV positive.

[] Evelyn Duncan, making her way in a motor home across America and last reporting from Taos, where she was exploring the pueblos and joining the locals in Friday evening “art crawls” through Santa Fe’s Canyon Road galleries.

[] Cherington Love Shucker, daughter of former Mount Gretna resident Harry Shucker (boyhood pal of Terry Miller and the brothers Hoffman), just named one of 15 scholars by the prestigious Luce Foundation. A frequent summer visitor to Mount Gretna, she will study social and cultural barriers impeding successful HIV and AIDS education programs.

IN BRIEF (45 Words or Less)

[] Lou Schellenberg is displaying her artwork in “Outside Spaces and Structures,” an exhibit continuing through Apr. 12 at Elizabethtown’s Lancaster Galleries West. An art professor at Elizabethtown College, she and playwright husband Eton Churchill spend winters here, summers in Maine and Nova Scotia.

[] “Queen of Jazz” Dame Cleo Laine and the John Dankworth Group headline this year’s Ebright Tribute Concert Aug. 8. She is the only vocalist to receive Grammy nominations in the Female Jazz, Popular, and Classical categories. Husband Dankworth founded the London Symphony’s Summer Pops program.

[] Gretna Theater named Will Stutts, Broadway actor, playwright, and director (and Tallulah Bankhead’s second cousin) as artistic director. Stutts has worked at Virginia’s Barter and Philadelphia’s Walnut Street theaters. The Alabama native’s acting credits include appearances with George C. Scott, Richard Chamberlain, and Will Geer.

[] Technicians will soon install first elements of a permanent lighting system available for all groups renting the Playhouse. Pennsylvania State grant funds are paying for the equipment. Playhouse operators hope to complete the system as funds become available in the future.

[] Former “Tonight Show” bandleader Skitch Henderson (always distinctively dressed, never without a vest in the Steve Allen-early Johnny Carson era) joins Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart for a Legends Trio concert in Gretna Music’s jazz series Aug. 22.

[] Chautauqua’s board of managers appointed Kathy Snavely, of Temple Ave., to fill the unexpired term of Tim Nieman, who, with wife Dianne and family, will move from Yale Ave. to a new home in Mount Gretna Heights.

[] Memorabilia collectors expect brisk sales this year for those commemorative Fire Company mugs. The 2003 edition (third in the series to help pay for that new fire truck being delivered in June or July) features another Eleanor Sarabia design. This year: The Corner Deli.

[] Fire Company commemorative mugs will be sold this year at the Gift Shop, The Hideaway, Corner Deli, Le Sorelle Porch ‘n Pantry, Playhouse concession stand, and Collins Grocery in Colebrook.

[] Summer Premier organizers Janice Balmer and her sister, Leslie Hall Buchanan, report a dazzling array of artwork and announcements for this year’s May 24th gala and auction. Proceeds from the sales and $15 admission help support the Arts Council’s popular Summer Calendar.

[] Summer Premier volunteers would like to hear from everyone willing to donate finger food appetizers or help staff the event, held at the Hall of Philosophy each Memorial Day weekend to launch Mount Gretna’s festive summer season. Call 964-3153 or e-mail

[] Jeep raffle tickets are selling even faster than Fire Company fund-raisers expected. The $10 tickets are available at the Corner Deli, Computer Store, Gift Shop and from firefighters themselves. Organizers are paying sales taxes on the Jeep and offering $3,000 in added cash prizes.

[] Conewago Creek volunteers will plant native trees Apr. 19. The preservationist group meets at 7:00 p.m. Mar. 26 at Lawn Fire Company. With more than 50 square miles in Lancaster, Dauphin, and Lebanon counties, the creek has headwaters in state game lands surrounding Mount Gretna.

[] Determined volunteers are using lights, bangers, and ear-piercing screamers to fend off a diminishing, yet stubborn, flock of iron-willed buzzards. The battle continues, but our side is winning. Numbering over 500 last year, the dwindling drove of diehards now is down to about 30.


32 Musicians onstage Jun. 22 as principal Metropolitan Opera Orchestra oboist Elaine Douvas and pianist Ludmil Angelov join the Gretna Music Festival Chamber Orchestra to honor conductor Don Th. Jaeger, associated with the festival for 20 years.

8,258 Miles between Mount Gretna and Swaziland, where Chautauquans Ned and Emily Wallace are helping that country in the battle against AIDS.

10 Percent of Mount Gretna’s 568 post office box holders asking Steve Strickler and Kathy Dugdale to forward their mail each winter.

30 Estimated number of postal patrons who regularly, gleefully and with reckless abandon pore over mail tossed into the P.O. trash bin.

538 The rest of us who, on occasion, would like to.

3 More people needed to sign up for those fresh organic fruit and vegetable deliveries to Mount Gretna this summer. Suzanne Stewart says the weekly fare will include 10 to 12 different varieties such as strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, and similar delights.
Details: 625-3954, e-mail, or see the website:

10 Volunteers trained this winter in wild land firefighting at Mount Gretna Fire Company. Other sessions included courses in hazardous materials, emergency vehicle operations, and first responder training. More classes this spring will cover blood-born pathogens, vehicle rescue training, and introduction to firefighting --- besides those regular Monday night sessions where volunteers do routine maintenance and keep familiar with tools and equipment.

4 Judges picked for the April 26 jury of this year’s Art Show applicants. All are experienced judges from Exton, Millersville, and Lancaster. They include a photographer who is also a jeweler, a mixed-media specialist, and two sculptors.


“Live your life with integrity, dignity, and grace, and things have a way of working themselves out and giving you what you want.” -- Anon.


On the eve of a war that leaves thoughtful people of goodwill divided, one may ask whether the minor concerns of a community newsletter are worthy of anyone’s attention. We hope the answer will be yes.

True, nothing we report is of great import. Stacked up against weightier issues of the day, they pale in comparison. Yet, taken together, they are reports of good people doing good things. They are the fabric on which communities are built. They are the stuff of a way of life that is decidedly American.

So while we are mindful of all that swirls around us, we focus on that which lies in our purview. Not grand in scale, to be sure. But we hope valuable nevertheless.

Thanks to all who help craft this letter, sending reports, keeping us advised, and lending a hand so that --- even if we’re away from home --- the news still flows, echoing the rhythms of a way of life that all of us seem to value. Thanks also for forwarding this letter to others, and for printing copies for friends and neighbors without access to electronic mail. And remember that thanks to Keith Volker, you’ll find archived issues of this newsletter on the web at

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave.

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A Special Note to Our Website Readers: Before preparing each newsletter, we dispatch a special alert to our e-mail address list inviting everyone to send ideas for topics of interest and upcoming events. We attempt to make that alert as informative as the newsletter itself. Here is the “Call for Articles” that preceded this issue:
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2003 11:18 PM
Subject: Coming Soon, Another Issue of Mt. Gretna's E-Mail Newsletter (Pls. Forward)

Another issue of Mount Gretna’s E-Mail Newsletter is in the works.

You’re invited to send in your ideas, questions, suggestions, and topics likely to be of interest to a growing network of readers that now spans the globe. Whether they live within walking distance of the post office along Rt. 117 or reside beneath the Alps of Switzerland, all share an abiding appreciation of Mount Gretna and an avid desire to remain connected.

We need your help. Despite the newsletter’s surprising geographic sweep over the past two years, not everyone—not even every inhabitant of Mount Gretna itself—yet knows that it is available. So please continue to spread word that our newsletter is free for the asking… and that it exists solely to enlighten, inform and uplift those who dwell here—either in fact or in spirit. Please also continue the thoughtful practice of printing and sharing copies with neighbors who have not yet mastered the delicate art of electronic correspondence.

Our next issue will report on the sudden reappearance last week of those mischievous turkey buzzards. Just when we had begun to think the varmints had vanished, 30 to 40 newcomers started showing up last Tuesday. Although the birds may have been intent on roosting, rousting is what our determined volunteers had in mind. They’ve reenergized their campaign and so far have successfully scattered the flock each afternoon before sundown.

We will also report on the auspicious debut of Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry. The cafe opened to appreciative diners last month --- all with words about the quality and variety of food, the sparkling new décor, and the friendly service.

And that gathering of Mount Gretna artists we reported on last month? It was a stunning success. They will meet again Mar. 18th --- sharing ideas, inspirations, coffee and friendship in the most informal and relaxed of settings at Le Sorelle, starting at 7:30 p.m. All Mount Gretnans who create or simply appreciate art are welcome. We also hope to report soon on Gretna Theater's new interim director, plans for the Summer Calendar of Events, and the recent sightings—even as workmen were raking two-foot snows from the Playhouse roof—of Mount Gretna's first robins for 2003.

More coming up shortly. Meanwhile, send your reports in to

With kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave.