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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 25, Monday, April 14, 2003


If all goes according to schedule, Mount Gretna’s maintenance crews soon will start picking up debris of the winter that just wouldn't quit. This year's brush collections, which borough superintendent Bill Care predicts could be the largest ever, should begin Apr. 28.

But don’t count your chickens. That surprise snowfall exactly one week ago reminded everyone that April showers sometimes come in the form of delicate snowflakes, sending plows scurrying back into action and turning carefully crafted schedules upside down. (See it all, including a slightly dazed snow-covered Lily, at

Despite a welcome warm-up this past weekend, the snow that fell last Monday may not be the last. Bill Care recalls that in 1982 eight inches accumulated on April 20th. And historians point to the time when Pennsylvania's Eighth Regiment Volunteers commandeered buildings on the Chautauqua grounds to escape the snow in 1898 --- on April 28th. (See

Merv Lentz, who supervises the Campmeeting, calls it “an old-fashioned winter,” one that refuses to let go. Perhaps its most visible symbol: that five-and-a-half-foot stump jutting westward near the base of Pinch Road. Once a 78-ft. tall white pine, its exposed roots now testify to a violent struggle before finally surrendering to this season’s most treacherous ice storm. More than 30 weakened trees came down this winter, removed either preemptively by wary crews seeking to ward off disaster around the Tabernacle, or elsewhere --- without warning --- by Mother Nature herself.

Jack Bitner, who spent summers here as a youngster and moved permanently to 24 Muhlenberg Ave. in 1980, says it was the worst winter he can remember, “not just since we moved to Mount Gretna, but the worst winter ever.”

Winter’s tenacious grip also delayed bulb plantings this year for Mary Hernley. Mount Gretna’s beloved “flower lady” nevertheless expects to be back in town with her irises, peonies, and lilacs just as soon as warm weather returns. Mary interrupted her quilting session with the ladies at White Oak Church of the Brethren last week to take our call on her cell phone. Yes, even quilters these days come cell phone-equipped, ready to tackle any emergency.

Tackling emergencies, of course, is the specialty of Met-Ed linemen, called to Mount Gretna again last Saturday in a fitting coda to the tumultuous winter. An insulator failure shortly after 11:30 a.m., on an otherwise picture-perfect day, knocked out power to 210 Mount Gretnans on both sides of Rte. 117. By around 6:00 p.m. they had restored power to everyone, concluding the cause may have been unseen damage from tree limbs that fell weeks, even months, ago. “Events like that are hard to predict,” says Met-Ed regional manager James Bates.

What Mr. Bates does predict is that Mount Gretna’s electrical service will get better. Met-Ed has “just finished trimming trees along the entire Annville-to-Mount Gretna-circuit,” he says. “We also installed extensive squirrel guards and have taken some protective devices off from ‘fast trip,‘ to prevent instantaneous outages. We’ll continue to monitor that circuit’s performance, and I think you’ll see some improvements going forward. But this winter has been a difficult one for us.”

And for PennDOT. Their crews have been out along the Lancaster County portion of Pinch Road, repairing damage inflicted by snows, ice, and the unaccustomed rumble of heavy trucks that cleared a site for the again-delayed Nature Center at Governor Dick Park. (Park trustees now are mulling over how to trim more than $100,000 of unexpected costs from the building project, which newspaper reports say could top $460,000.)

Meanwhile, PennDOT’s Lebanon team says that after all the money spent clearing snow this winter, there’s none left to repave Pinch Road’s northern corridor. Last year’s shoulder-widening patchwork, they say, will have to do for at least another year, maybe two.

And if winter finally relents, carpenter Jim Veser should be able to resume his work. That means we soon will see an expanded porch at the new entrance of Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry Café. There, even under dreary skies, business is booming, spirits are soaring, and the elusive promise of spring is pushing up like the crocuses making a skeptical, understandably tentative, reappearance along Chautauqua Drive.


So, what surprises do Joe Macsisak and Tom Rowe have in mind for the design they’re creating for this year’s T-shirts and sweatshirts at Remember When Gift Shop?

Last year’s version (“Mount Gretna, Pa. The Way Life Should Be”) was an all-time best-seller --- 400 shirts, requiring five separate reorders.

Rocking chairs, prominent in last year’s design, are a favorite theme (appearing in three of the past five years’ shirt designs). Least popular was one showing Chautauqua historic buildings against a white background. “When it comes to T-shirts, people don’t like white,” says Reenie Macsisak.

Her favorite customer is a Baltimore motorcyclist who stopped in one day and considered buying a shirt but hesitated because he thought it might be “too feminine.” “It’s not too feminine for either of my six-foot-four sons or my husband,” said Reenie, convincing the biker to buy one. The next year he returned. He liked the “feminine” T-shirt so much, and received so many compliments, that he wore it out, he said. Every year since he’s been back, buying his Mount Gretna shirts two at a time.

Reenie promises the 2003 design will be ready in time for opening day May 10.


Mount Gretna firefighters are seeking a $125,000 federal grant to outfit their nearly 25 volunteers with personal protective gear, air monitoring devices, and a thermal imaging camera that sees through walls to pinpoint a fire’s exact location. “Instead of ripping through walls and risking hot spots by exposing flames to oxygen, firefighters can use the camera to go direct to a fire’s source, protecting both lives and property,” says fire company president Keith Volker.

The grant could help pay for personal protection equipment that costs nearly $1,500 for each firefighter. “We don’t have enough equipment for everyone,” says Keith, “so if a truck overturns with hazardous material, such as ammonia, we don’t have enough air packs to outfit all our volunteers.” Any funds they get from the grant will go for personal equipment, leaving more to help pay for that $163,000 fire truck arriving this summer.


Few volunteers have done more for the community where they live than Bruce and Trish Myers. At the end of this month, 11 years after Bruce moved here, and five years after taking Trish as his bride, the Myers are moving to a condominium near Hershey.

They’ll continue a lifetime of service --- at the Hershey Museum, as ushers at the Hershey Theater, and at Chocolate World, where Trish serves coffee, sells fudge, dishes out soup, and makes sandwiches for visitors. Bruce is there, too, greeting visitors on rides, and dispensing candy with good cheer. It’s a calling he’s followed for most of his 73 years.

Starting while a teenager as “Chipso the Magician,” Bruce became “Chipso the Clown,” a role he played for more than half a century. He appeared on WGAL-TV’s “Incredible Doctor Dud” program, and one summer performed at Hershey Park in more than 600 shows. Today he puts in eight-hour days at the park, often walking five or six miles a day, keeping everything neat and orderly, and helping visitors from all over the world.

A watchmaker for nearly 30 years, Bruce spent the next 20 running Laundromats after electronics supplanted gears and mainsprings. Chipso’s Sudsy Shaks still operate in Lebanon and Lititz, even though he no longer owns the businesses.

Together, he and Trish helped make the Playhouse concession stand a thriving business as well, building volume to nearly $16,000 a year for the benefit of Mount Gretna’s performing arts groups. They also helped organize the community’s other volunteers, the Summer Premiere, and countless other endeavors including the popular buzzard-lowering celebrations that ushered in the New Year.

They’ll be gone but not forgotten. To say they’ll be missed may well be the year’s preeminent understatement.


Get ready for a dazzling display of color as the walls go up and workmen lower roof trusses into place at La Cigale, the new design center opening along Rte. 117 this summer. Owner John Mitchell, who imports French Provencal linen tablecloths and napkins, says the 4,200-square-foot building will likely have its grand opening in August, but will be operating before then, possibly by late May.

John is inviting artists to display their works at the center, which will also serve as the headquarters for his import business. You can see the full line of his colorful offerings, what John calls “table art,” at, as well as at designer and gift shops such as B. Green's in Harrisburg, the Country French Collection in Adamstown, J. P. Gifts and Cards in Lancaster, and at the Landis Valley Herb Show May 10-11.

The center will also have space for offices, shops and a gazebo that he hopes might become a coffee shop. “We want to make it an attractive place, an asset for Mount Gretna.” John has also offered space without charge to flower lady Mary Hernley. “Why not?,” he says. “She brings beauty to the community, gives money she makes to charity, does something that makes people smile, and brings happiness to the world.”


Phil Schneider says the emphasis on safety, cleanness and courtesy is paying off at Mount Gretna Lake, where group gatherings are increasing and family outings are becoming more popular.

Midway through a four-year rejuvenation program, the lake is attracting more corporate outings, family reunions, and church groups. Many are from northern Lancaster County, he says, with “a surprising number from York.” Advertisements aim at mothers with children, since it is they, says Phil, who make family plans for both weekdays and weekends. Direct marketing to companies brings repeat bookings, helping fill the 400-seat tent added two years ago. Most groups, he says, number fewer than 200 persons.

A financial analyst with Ryder Systems who commutes to his office in West Chester, Phil and his family have moved 11 times in the past 25 years but now consider home to be Mount Gretna, where they’ve lived since 1977. “We’d never be anywhere else,” he insists.

Phil says the people he meets at the deli or in the post office often ask about the trees removed last fall from atop the dam. “It’s part of a multiyear cooperative program with the state,” he explains. “Trees were allowed when they built the dam 100 years ago. Today, they are not. Removing them was simply part of bringing the dam into compliance with current standards.”


This year’s Cicada Festival, a series that sprang up nine years ago to become one of the area’s most popular summer outings for families seeking free and inexpensive concerts, begins Aug. 4 with the 80-voice male chorus of Lehigh Valley. Other highlights of the weeklong festival include The Eaken Piano Trio, The Navy Band’s Cruisers (classic rock to rhythm and blues), entertainer Jim Rule’s "Share This World" performance, and The Philadelphia Organ Quartet. Getting those four world-renowned organists together on one stage took two years of negotiations, say Cicada organizers. They predict it'll be well worth the effort.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Summer Premiere tickets go on sale outside the Post Office every Saturday starting May 3. The festive gala May 24 helps underwrite that essential guide to Mount Gretna events, the Summer Calendar. Janice Balmer still needs volunteers to make desserts. Call 964-3153 or e-mail

[] Biggest fix-up project in Mount Gretna these days? Probably the Elder-Boyer cottage, near the intersection of Princeton and Columbia avenues. Lifting the cottage a full story above its original 1892 foundation, the owners vow to “keep as much of the original intact as possible.”

[] Cottage owners wishing to help support Music at Gretna by opening their residence for this year’s Tour of Homes should contact Emi Snavely (964-3800). The tour consistently attracts visitors who sometimes buy cottages here, adding their talents and financial support to the community’s cultural life.

[] Mount Gretna Heights officials expect to announce April 15 which of the offers they’ll accept on those two new building lots. Sale proceeds will pay for the cost of drilling a new well last year and help fund a reserve for future community projects.

[] Borough crews start collecting leaves May 5. Their second round of leaf pickups begin Jun. 2. Brush collections, as we cautiously ventured in this issue’s opening paragraph, start Apr. 28 --- barring another unexpected snowfall that calls in the plows.

[] Gretna Theater director Will Stutts begins his new assignment here this week with plans for “Forever Plaid,” starting Jun. 10, “Crimes of the Heart,” beginning Jun. 24; “Suds,” Jul. 8; “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” Jul. 22; and “Hay Fever,” Aug. 19.

[] The Great Community Exchange (officially “Large Item Collection Day) comes up Jun. 16. Except for dangerous items such as paints and propane tanks, borough crews will haul away on Monday anything (refrigerators and dishwashers included) that your neighbors haven’t already carried off over the weekend.

[] Andy Boutcher invites everyone “interested in discussing the arts of all kinds with interesting people,” to write for time and date of the next monthly gathering at Le Sorelle. Join in. You don’t, stresses Andy, have to be an artist or writer yourself.

[] Cornwall Borough police secretary Shirley Trimmer (274-2071) offers to pick up items for a yard sale next month that will help local families in need. Last year, two such sales raised over $600, bringing to three families food, fuel oil, and coal.

[] Shirley also asks for help in identifying families needing aid. “We try to concentrate on people in Mount Gretna, Cornwall Borough, and West Cornwall Township. Schools and churches sometimes see obvious needs,” she says, “but we can use everyone’s help.”

[] Playhouse volunteer coordinators will be asking for your help to usher or help at the concession stand this summer. They need five to seven volunteers for each performance.

[] Governor Dick needs volunteers to pull up garlic mustard plants threatening natural vegetation on the 1,100-acre site. Want to help for an hour or two? Call Carol McLaughlin (272-9841). Or come to the stone monument Apr. 26-27 at 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., or 1:00 p.m.

[] Palmyra graphic artist Barbara Yashinsky has just finished a design for the 29th annual Art Show poster, her sixth consecutive year to be chosen for the honor. Last year’s theme was a glimpse heavenward from “Under the trees of Old Chautauqua.”

[] Bill Care’s black eye last week was not, as he claimed, “because Linda popped me one.” Instead, he crashed into a cyclist ahead of him who slipped in a Queens County, Maryland race. Bill nevertheless picked up himself and his bike, managing a respectable finish.

[] Now a “legend in his own mind,” Bill accompanies wife Kay, Linda and Ellen Holsopple on Hanover Farm’s 50-mile ride May 18, a 150-mile MS benefit Jul. 12-13, and a one-day 160-mile ride to the Delaware shore – all led, he says, “by the legend himself.”

[] Linda Bell feared that entries for this year’s Art Show were “way below normal.” But as the Apr. 1, deadline approached, postmaster Steve Strickler handed over two full bins of last-minute applications. “We’re now where we should be,” says Linda. Judging begins Apr. 26.

[] Lanie Allen, a Lancaster employee relations manager who moved from the Midwest several years ago then discovered and fell in love with Mount Gretna, wants to buy a home here. Ideal would be a fixer-upper for under $125,000. Tel. (717) 468-3323. E-mail:

[] Fine art photographer Madelaine Gray and her husband, certified picture framer Rupert Bullard, invite visitors to their 710 Fourth St. Campmeeting studio. Call 964-3118 for an appointment. Madelaine’s images from Southern France and Italy also appear at Sassy Tassel, the Lititz home décor store.

[] Helen Granoff, 102 Brown Ave., sends a cheery “daffodils are blooming” e-mail note from London, where she’s been reviewing British History at the National Portrait Gallery, “one of my favorite haunts.” Helen and husband Robert own the cottage where Charlton Heston stayed in 1948.


Residents here mourn the loss of police officer Thomas R. Hentz, 55, who died last month after a six-week illness. He joined the Cornwall Borough force in September 2001 following a 25-year career with Lebanon City’s police force, where he served as a lieutenant and retired in 1988. Tom had also been a deputy with the Lebanon County sheriff’s office. “We have lost a dedicated officer,” said Cornwall Police Chief Bruce Harris. “We will miss him tremendously.”


374 Christmas trees lingering at the drop-off site along Rte. 117 --- two and a half months after the Feb. 1 deadline. Reminded that the formerly festive trees are still hanging around, officials last week promised a prompt pickup.

1500 Jeep Raffle Tickets gobbled up so far in the Fire Company’s fire engine fund-raiser. “We’re pleasantly surprised,” says president Keith Volker, “sales are going even faster than we’d hoped.” Wal-Mart will lend a hand. They’re putting the Jeep on display at their Palmyra store one weekend and will match the first $1,000 of ticket sales.

0 Deer struck by cars in more than a month. Unusual, says police secretary Shirley Trimmer. “I think they’ve finally learned to look both ways before crossing.”

65 Trees planted in the Campmeeting so far as part of a Memorial Tree program started several years ago by Hershey residents Jeanne and Jerry Boltz. Chautauqua planners are considering a similar program.

2,200 Trees with diameters of six inches or more in the Campmeeting.

200 Native trees that Conewago Creek clean-up volunteers will help plant this Saturday (Apr. 19) to protect water quality and restore wildlife habitats. The creek has headwaters at Mount Gretna; volunteers will gather at 8:45 a.m. at Lawn Fire Company, along Mount Gretna Rd. (Rte. 241).

25 Percent of funds stripped from PennDot’s Lebanon County road budget, pushing back resurfacing plans for Pinch Road to at least 2004, and putting new blacktop for Rte. 117 on ‘”indefinite” status.


“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”
--- Helen Keller (An inscription Dr. Jeffrey Hurst selected last year for a stone marking the entrance to the Campmeeting's Grossbrenner Avenue entrance.)


Nothing more typifies the spirit of Mount Gretna than the folks who offer their time, talents, and energies as volunteers. Volunteerism fuels the engine that makes this community go. It’s been that way for more than a century.

True, people now spend more time watching television these days. (Ninety-six percent of us average four hours a day, according to a fascinating study reported in the “Interesting Reading” section of Gretna Music’s website: People work longer hours (The New York Times said last week that “Americans now work 1,978 hours annually, a full 350 hours --- nine weeks --- more than Western Europeans). And parents of young children are especially pressured.

Yet somehow it all works. Somehow the job gets done. Perhaps there’s a place where volunteerism flourishes more noticeably. But we don’t know of any. Few communities see the likes of Bruce and Trish Myers, Keith Volker, Evelyn Duncan, Tom Ebright, Tom Clemens, Carl Ellenberger, Bruce Johnson, Reed Dixon or any of dozens of others who have built our past and helped assure our future.

To them, to everyone who lends a hand in making Mount Gretna thrive, our sincere thanks.

Please remember to forward this newsletter to others who might enjoy it, and share printed copies with neighbors who are not yet e-mail equipped.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave.

P.S. Back issues of this newsletter on the web at

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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: Friday, March 28, 2003 7:55 AM
Subject: Update to Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter


Mount Gretna Heights' community association will offer two adjacent building lots for sale along Birch Avenue during the next two weeks. The lots, each with a little more than one acre, are priced at $100,000 and $125,000 and will be sold through Penn Realty (964-3800). Offers must be received by Apr. 11.

Officials specify the two lots cannot be subdivided and must be used only for single-family homes with a minimum of 2,500 sq. ft. of living space. The Heights board will approve building plans and construction schedules. Sale funds will help pay for the cost of drilling a new well to replace one that had served the 69-home Mount Gretna Heights community for 80 years before collapsing last year on New Years Day.


Snowdrops heralding the arrival of spring, a new swing for handicapped youngsters at the playground, three geese wading into the chilly waters of Lake Conewago, and the last vestiges of snow still lingering alongside the Playhouse are among scenes now on display at


A memorial service honoring Barbara A. Pearson, wife of George F. Pearson, 107 Timber Road, will be held tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at Mount Gretna United Methodist Church. Barbara passed away at home last Friday following a lengthy illness. A retired schoolteacher, she was a 1958 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and had taught Home Economics for 30 years, including 22 at Palmyra High School.

Memorial contributions may be given to the American Cancer Society, "Barbs Buddies Team", P.O. Box 1274, Lebanon, Pa. 17042 or Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, 4th and Boehm Avenue, Mt. Gretna, Pa. 17064.


Spring's arrival means there's much going on here. Please pass along news and notes that you'd like to share. Send items of interest to And please continue to forward copies of this newsletter to others (including friends and neighbors who, although they don't have e-mail, nevertheless have a lively curiosity about all things great and small. . . and Gretnan.)

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave.