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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 26, Thursday, May 15, 2003


In the weeks just before Memorial Day in Mount Gretna, you can see, almost feel, the tempo picking up. Painters applying brightening touches to the Gift Shop. Masons battling intermittent rainsqualls to build a sandstone foundation for the expanded porch at Le Sorelle café. And hills alive with, if not the sounds of music, at least the steady rhythm of hammers and saws along Rte.117, bringing John Mitchell’s Design Center dream closer to reality.

Meanwhile, as you’ll discover at, the dams at Lake Conewago have opened so water levels are returning to normal, workmen are spiffing up the miniature golf course, and Mount Gretna’s flowers --- struggling to blossom in the below-normal temperatures of an unusually chilly spring --- are nevertheless making their colorful debut.

In the Campmeeting, supervisor Merv Lentz has already completed his inspections of the Tabernacle and declared it ready for another season of jam-packed Bible and Heritage festivals. The Playhouse, with its new lighting system, awaits the Black Eagles‘ season opener June 6 and 7, followed by the popular New Orleans jazz worship service (usually with standing-room-only congregations) on Sunday, June 8 at 11:00 a.m.

Outside the post office, Saturday morning organizers are signing up volunteers to serve as Playhouse ushers and concession stand workers for this season’s performances of plays and concerts.

Officially, the season begins at 4:00 p.m. on May 24. That’s when the doors to the festively decorated Community Building swing open, welcoming patrons to the Summer Premiere, introducing the 2003 Summer Calendar, previewing cultural events that will highlight the season, and offering an elegant array of objets d’art in the annual auction. One avidly anticipated offering: the spectacular “Sassafras” lamp, perhaps the most delicate and challenging work ever created by stained glass artist Dale Grundon. It will go to some lucky bidder (see to mark the official start of Mount Gretna’s summer season.

But in truth, preparations for this summer’s outpouring of music, crafts, lectures, plays, book reviews, nature hikes, movies, cottage tours, and organ concerts have been underway all winter long. This is Mount Gretna’s annual rite of spring. A time when the whole town, like a prima ballerina preparing for a 13-week-long performance, tunes up amid feelings of excitement and maybe just a trace of nervousness, yet balanced by the sublime satisfaction of knowing that, in summer, Mount Gretna is where all of us who are here truly wish to be. It is a feeling that generations have known, and cherished, for more than a century.


For the first time ever, folk art enthusiasts will be able to buy works created by Arline Althouse, whom many regard as Mount Gretna’s Grandma Moses.

Seven different prints of her original paintings are going on sale this summer at the Remember When Gift Shop. Although she displayed many of her 60 paintings in a special exhibition at the Community Building two years ago, Arline has been reluctant to sell any of them.

It was gift shop owner Reenie Macsisak who convinced Arline to begin offering her creations for sale. Yet it was Virginia Waring (whose famous husband led the renown choral group “Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians” and employed Arline’s son Jay, a composer) who first kindled her interest in folk art more than 15 years ago.

Arline gained an appreciation for the art form through one of Mrs. Waring’s favorite folk artists, Sterling Strosser. “We visited his home, and the walls of his living and dining rooms were his gallery,” she says. “When I saw how childlike they were, I gained a new appreciation. Before, I always thought of pictures as something that looked real. But then I saw that sometimes two eyes were aside each other, not spaced where they should have been. And I said to myself, ‘I have memories that are fresh in my mind. I can paint like that. If I don’t have to have perspective, I can paint flat, and that will suit me.’ That’s how I got started.”

Several months later, Strosser asked Jay how his mother was coming with her new hobby. “Oh,” said Jay, “She’s doing fine. In fact, she’s just begun to take art lessons.” “For God’s sake,” said Strosser, “Tell her to stop immediately, or they’ll teach her the right way.” Arline stopped the lessons, but continued to paint. “Every scene is a memory. There is no fantasy involved,” she says.

“Baking Cookies,” a Depression-era scene at her aunt’s apartment, is her favorite. “My sister and I loved our aunt. When we baked cookies, she was always very patient with us.” Another print depicts a time when a flat tire stopped the entire family, dressed in their Sunday best, on their way to church. “The picture shows us waiting for him to change the tire, with frustration on Daddy’s face, and impatience on ours,” she says.

Now, in addition to felting (a painting-with-wool technique she will teach in the Community Building this summer), Arline has resumed sketching her remembrances. “I still have memories that need to come out,” she says. “The long winters, I don’t mind them at all. I look forward to a long evening because I have these things to do. Life is what you make it. And I’m not making it a dreary experience.”


So what’s behind the success of Le Sorelle Porch & Pantry café? Is it the Lamont sisters themselves? “Their personalities sparkle,” said one patron. “They make us want to come here.”

Is it the food? Whether breakfast, lunch, or one of Le Sorelle’s special dinners, the preparations get rave reviews from appreciative diners sampling everything from warm sticky buns fresh from the oven to poached Norwegian salmon filet and homemade Stromboli.
Or is it the friendly and capable staff of 10 who help pull it all together each Wednesday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.? To be sure, they are all eager to please, energetic, enthusiastic, and young. Young? How about young at heart?

Grace Garrett qualifies on all four counts, even though the gracious weekend hostess will this year celebrate her 89th birthday. Grace is a part of what makes Le Sorelle so appealing. She loves the people, and the people love her. “I just enjoy everything about the restaurant,” says Grace. “The girls are doing a good job, and the food is delicious.”

Grace knows what doing a good job is all about. She did that for 50 years as a secretary to the late Herbert Levy, owner of a textile mill in Lebanon. “I’d probably still be in an office if the computer hadn’t come along. When computers came in, I got out,” says Grace, who makes it a point to be up every day by 4:00 a.m., shuns naps, and keeps busy until bedtime, usually around 10:00 p.m.

Keeping busy means knitting, reading, doing crossword puzzles, and getting out of the house at least once every day. She still drives, but doesn’t roam far from home. “I don’t care to travel,” says the sprightly woman who began coming here each summer with her parents from the time she was born. “We lived in Lebanon and came out on a train. When we arrived, a horse and wagon took our trunk up to the cottage. It was a big trip, one the whole family looked forward to.” She moved here permanently in 1961 and, except for occasional visits to the Jersey shore, has stayed put. “I like Mount Gretna too much, so why should I travel?”


Mount Gretna art show co-founder Bruce Johnson ( has a favorite memory of the show.

“Early one Saturday morning, before the show started, a young boy, perhaps 10, came walking down Pennsylvania Avenue with two orange crates, some pencils and paper. He sat on the curb, using one crate for his easel, the other as a seat for his customers. His sign read 'Portraits, 25 cents'. Customers began lining up. At one point, I went over and said he could use my VISA machine. Within seconds, he wrote on his sign, ‘VISA ACCEPTED.’”

Bruce adds that when a friend wanted to have her portrait done, the boy asked, "Do you want me to put that mole on your face in the drawing?" "’Of course’, she said. Each drawing he did was no more than a stick figure with a circle for the head, a smiley face, and, in her case, a mole.”

Bruce, who once lived at the corner of Brown and Chicago Avenues, now makes his home overlooking a private lake in the Poconos, where he and wife Donna are “living and enjoying life.”

He has just published “It’s A Fine Line,” a 144-page book with 110 color and 17 black and white drawings, through Stackpole Books. He’ll be doing book signings at Gallery 444 in Hershey June 8, from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. and others in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and Allentown. “But the one I am most excited about will be the Mount Gretna Art Show,” he says.

“Our son grew up in Gretna and back then, and perhaps now, I can't think of a better place for kids to grow up. The woods, the lake, the swimming, the playground, and all the events are perfect for children. I miss the Fourth of July concert with the candles on the trees. I miss the beautiful winter days with snow and the light, which could not get through the leaves in the summer. I miss the summer music and the friends. I also miss the art show. ”It's satisfying to know that you helped start something that is still, to this day, an asset to the community. Reed Dixon and I, and our wives, had fun getting it started. It was successful from the beginning because of the atmosphere and all the hard work. But after, and during the show, we also had some great parties with fellow artists and Gretna-ites.”

Bruce recalls when the National Guard came in to direct traffic and guard the artists’ stands at night. “Those who were off-duty would party at John Wentzler’s house until dawn. We always had artists stay with us, and in the morning, I had to step over their sleeping bags, which were all over our porch. They were very good times.”

The softbound version of “It’s A Fine Line” is $29.95. A signed and numbered, limited edition (200 copies, hardbound with slipcase and foil-stamped spine) is $150. The book is also available direct from Bruce Johnson, HC 12, Box 460 C, Dingmans Ferry, PA 18328 (e-mail or Borders and Barnes & Noble.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Ushers and concession stand volunteers will sign up next Saturday, May 17, for duty at the Playhouse this summer. Gretna Theater’s Judy Weimer (964-3568) now handles volunteer scheduling for almost everything that goes on at the Playhouse.

[] Mount Gretna Lake co-owner Phil Schneider has invited the fire company to display that 2003 Jeep Wrangler at the lake this summer. Jeep raffle tickets are going fast. They’ll help pay for our new fire engine, expected soon.

[] Jack Bitner, author of “Mount Gretna: A Coleman Legacy,” says he plans to begin entertaining offers, but only from Mount Gretna residents, for items from his vast collection of Mount Gretna artifacts, including a Wurlitzer carousel organ and horse from the Mount Gretna park.

[] Rapho Township officials predict the Pinch Road bridge reconstruction project will take at least until the end of June, maybe longer. Meanwhile, Rte. 72 traffic will have to use the Cider Press Road detour. About 1,300 cars and trucks use Pinch Road daily.

[] LeSorelle Porch & Pantry chefs will prepare appetizers for the May 24 Summer Premiere. Janice Balmer (964-3153, e-mail needs volunteers to bring desserts. Tickets will be on sale at the door, or outside the Post Office this Saturday (May 17).

[] Road crews will begin repaving Village Lane, Timber Cove, and Timber Lane this summer, probably in July, says South Londonderry Township’s congenial Rosemary Kays. And those long-awaited Timber Hills area leaf pickups? “We’re hopeful we can begin doing that next year,” she says.

[] Thursday Evening Organ Recitals at 1 Princeton Ave. begin July 3. The performances will include composer and choir director Dr. Robert Lau, musician executives of the Allen Organ Company, and Matthew Wensel, considered one of the most promising students ever to attend Lebanon Valley College.

[] Cornwall Borough police will gladly pick up items for the June 7 yard sale to benefit area families in need. Shirley Trimmer (274-2071) says she’s had a good response from Mount Gretnans. Sales last year helped buy over $600 of food, fuel oil, and coal.

[] Moles --- the furry kind --- more than borough staffer Scott Cooling has ever seen, are out in force this spring. Tamping iron in hand, Scott was out last week flattening their new tunnels in the grassy area he’d just planted around Le Sorelle.

[] Naturalist Dale Grundon theorizes the increased mole population this spring may result from greater moisture, which promotes grubs --- thick wormlike larvae, a favorite mole delicacy. After the heavy snows, rainfall so far this year has totaled 17.2 inches, up 12 percent over last year.

[] Mount Gretna borough issued a reminder that the date for this year’s Large Item Pickups is Monday, June 16. It’s your opportunity to dispose of refrigerators, washers, dryers, and similar items. No hazardous materials (e.g., paints, oils, propane tanks) please.

[] Shedding her raincoat and her office routine, drenched borough secretary Linda Bell handled the Stop/Go sign last week as crews collected leaves. A self-proclaimed “tough old bird,” Linda says it took nearly the whole day, but she didn’t mind. “The rains were warm.”

[] Governor Dick Nature Center officials will eliminate wood floors, a fireplace, and bathroom tile to pare costs by $100,000. Despite delays, officials nevertheless expect to issue new bids soon and finish the 2,200-square-foot log cabin center this year.

[] Governor Dick volunteers hope to soon have trail maps ready so hikers can identify trails by numbers, with symbols showing surface conditions and degrees of difficulty. The volunteers are also helping to clean out alien plants that threaten natural vegetation.

[] Thinking of taking down a tree? Checking before cutting is a good idea, since some trees that appear to be on private property are not, say local officials. Borough chief Bill Care (964-3231) welcomes calls and often has time- and money-saving tips for homeowners.

[] Former Porch & Pantry owners Barbara and Glen Acker, enjoying retirement, say they’ve been biking, reading, hiking, taking photos, drawing, and painting. Next, they’ll try car camping in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado, then in New England. “Our time is zooming by,” says Barb.

[] Yoga expert Pam Willeman plans to offer Astanga Yoga classes again on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Heights Community building, starting June 9. For details, call 964-3193.

[] Louise Quick, a protégé of Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, joins Sharon Miller to co-direct “Curtain Up,” this summer’s Timbers Dinner Theater offering. Manager Tap Roberts promises a lively “salute to music’s role in our lives” by a talented cast Tuesdays-Saturdays starting July 8. Reservations: 964-3601.

[] Conewago Creek enthusiasts host their second annual bird-watching hike May 24. Join expert birders Tom McKinne and Larry Coble at Colebrook’s Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail trailhead at 8:00 a.m. Bring binoculars and field guides. Matt Royer says last year’s hike attracted many Mount Gretnans.

[] Fire company mugs, the 2003 edition featuring Eleanor Sarabia’s sketch of the Mount Gretna store, go on sale this month. You’ll find them at the Gift Shop, The Hideaway, Corner Deli, Le Sorelle Porch ‘n’ Pantry, Playhouse concession stand, and Collins Grocery in Colebrook.

[] Fire company fundraisers are also planning the sixth annual Mount Gretna Car Show in the fire company parking lot June 21 from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. A free concert by A Cappella, featuring “pastimes oldies” at the Tabernacle, follows immediately after the car show.

[] Brownstone Real Estate will sponsor this year’s tour of homes Aug. 2 to benefit Music at Gretna. Brownstone has also announced the appointment of veteran real estate professional Emi Snavely as the firm’s Mount Gretna specialist. She’ll also offer realty services throughout Brownstone’s tri-county region.

[] Laura Feather, of Conewago Hills, would like to join, form, or participate in a bridge group for beginners. Sound like fun? Call Laura at 964-3607.

[] Noted Mount Gretna artist Barb Fishman (964-3332) offers watercolor lessons at her 113 Lakeview Dr. home. A frequent Art Show exhibitor, she invites anyone interested in joining the sessions at her “studio up in the trees” to call or e-mail her at

[] Photographer Dale Grundon captured national chainsaw carving champion Dennis Beach at work last week as he converted a Mount Gretna pine tree into a turtle -- complete with towel, spats, serving tray and the dour, aloof expression of a typical British butler. (See


47 Parking tickets issued in Mount Gretna borough last July (the peak month). Linda Bell says new parking permits will soon be sent to borough residents, but they will be needed only in the areas around the Playhouse, and only during times when the Playhouse is open. Last year, Cornwall police issued 39 parking tickets in August, 38 in June, and 8 in September.

2 Deer hit recently by motorists en route to Mount Gretna. Pennsylvania’s Game Commission says fawns are on the move as does chase them away to prepare for the next fawn cycle. "Unfortunately, these young deer make tragic mistakes when crossing roads in spring and moving through unfamiliar areas," says a spokesman. "They're no longer following the leader, they're moving independently. If a deer steps onto the road, don't risk trying to drive around it. More deer may be following. Deer sometimes abruptly reverse their direction after crossing a road --- a reaction that often kicks in when deer are startled. They retrace their footsteps, returning to an area they've already checked for danger."

5 Patrol cars assigned to Cornwall Borough’s police department, staffed by seven full-time and two part-time officers. The officers provide coverage for Mount Gretna borough, Campmeeting, Mount Gretna Heights and Stoberdale. South Londonderry Township police, with three patrol cars and five officers (now taking applications for a sixth), cover the Timber Hills area.

6 Art show applicants receiving from the four judges a perfect score of 20. “That’s a bit unusual,” says show director Linda Bell, “and it suggests the quality of entries this year was exceptional.” Judges may award ratings of anywhere from 0 to 5 points. “A good artist will get 17 or 18, which is a good score” says Linda, “but 20 means that everybody thought they were really good.” The 29th annual art show takes place Aug. 16-17.

1,296 Average daily traffic count on Pinch Road. The count for Cider Press Road, which crosses Pinch, is 1,107 vehicles per day, says Lancaster County’s Planning Commission.

4 Pairs of red stone pillars marking entrances to the Chautauqua grounds once a new set is completed at the entrance to Carnegie Avenue, off Rte. 117.

12 Extra parking spaces that Merv Lentz hopes to add by clearing space behind the Campmeeting garages, making access to the Tabernacle easier for visitors.


“We all have obligations and duties toward our fellow men. But it does seem curious enough that in modern neurotic society, men's energies are consumed in making a living and rarely in living itself. It takes a lot of courage for a man to declare, with clarity and simplicity, that the purpose of life is to enjoy it.” -- Lin Yutang

“He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.” -- A. Lincoln


A fellow Rotarian, walking along with us to the weekly meeting at Lancaster’s Farm and Home Center yesterday afternoon, remarked, “You live in Mount Gretna? That’s a wonderful place. I spent a week up there last summer. It was grand. There’s simply no place like it.”

We appreciated his enthusiasm, and his perspective. And we replied that Mount Gretna does indeed seem unique. We cited our experience of walking down to the post office, cheerfully expecting the trip (of perhaps 300 yards or so) often takes an hour or more because of friendly conversations with all the people one meets. His quizzical expression suggested that, in his neighborhood at least, people rarely encounter their neighbors.

As a woman who moved to Mount Gretna a few years ago told us, “To me, all the homes here spell family. When you walk the streets, you hear echoes of voices. Sometimes little voices, other times big, burly voices, and there’s something that just makes you want to see inside the happy places where those voices come from.”

All of which is to suggest that what we have here is exceptional, precious, and perhaps irreplaceable. Whether we are young or old, whether we have lived here for several months or several decades, each of us seems instinctively to know that. And the spirit of creative energies, of working together toward shared goals to preserve and nurture what we have has never been stronger.

Please continue your gracious practice of printing copies of this newsletter for neighbors who don’t yet have e-mail. Please continue to forward it to others who may not yet know it exists. And please continue sending us your news, notes and observations about all things great and small --- especially if they’re Gretnan.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue

P.S. A reminder that previous issues of this newsletter are available 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, May 02, 2003 5:29 AM
Subject: Coming Soon, Another Issue of Mt. Gretna's E-Mail Newsletter (Pls. Forward)

Coming soon. . . another issue of Mount Gretna’s e-mail newsletter. Send your news, notices, and anything else you’d like to share with friends and neighbors to

As you’ll discover at, springtime stirrings in Mount Gretna are everywhere:

[] You can catch a glimpse of what this year’s Art Show poster will look like at

[] Tickets for the May 24 Summer Premiere will go on sale tomorrow morning outside the post office.

[] You’ll be able to enjoy a visit to the Jigger Shop and Gift Shop soon; they’ll open May 17-18, just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend kickoff.

[] Borough crews are finishing brush pickups that Bill Care says will probably set new records this year for sheer volume. The crews begin gathering leaves on Monday.

[] And the tempo is quickening at Le Sorelle Porch n’ Pantry, now serving patrons Wednesdays through Sundays, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For a tantalizing glimpse of what the Lamont sisters have planned for Mothers Day, see

And in other news . . .


Keith Volker, now officially Gretna Theater’s new general manager, says the need is urgent this season for volunteers to sign up as ushers and concession stand workers.

The Theater will hold Volunteer Signup Days on two consecutive Saturday mornings (May 10 and 17) at the post office. “We’ll need about eight volunteers for each Gretna Theater performance (four ushers, four others to run the concession stand) and four concession stand volunteers at each of Gretna Music’s concerts. Keith says the Theater wants to provide similar services during the Cicada Festival.

Judy Weimer, of the Gretna Theater staff, is handling volunteer assignments. Call her at 964-3568.

Judy hopes to coordinate volunteer assignments this year for everything that goes on at the Playhouse --- plays, concerts, and Cicada performances --- with each group sharing commissions on concession sales.

"We hope this brings us just one step closer to unifying everything that goes on at the Playhouse," says Keith, who picked up the general manager assignment after former manager Kim Armer accepted an invitation to join the touring company of “Menopause the Musical,” now in rehearsal at Florida’s Universal Studios. Kim hopes the musical parody (about four women who meet at a lingerie sale at Bloomingdale's) will make its way to Philadelphia this fall after a tour through the South.

“We need volunteers now,” says Keith, “and we’re counting on the true Mount Gretna spirit.”


Could it be the rivels that make Alice McKeone’s ham and bean soup so delicious? “I don’t do anything special,” says Alice. “It’s just the way my grandmother made it.”

Alice’s famous ham and bean soup (“the best you’ve ever eaten,” attests Mayor Joe Shay) will again be a highlight at tomorrow’s Fire Company Block Shoot, starting at Noon at the fire hall.

What are rivels? “I thought everybody knew that,” says Alice, who grew up in Lebanon and moved to Mount Gretna’s Campmeeting more than a half century ago. To make the tiny dumplings, she mixes eggs with flour “until they get like crumbs, almost. Then I put them in the boiling liquid before the beans go in.” Add salt? Not necessarily, she says. “Sometimes the ham itself is salty enough. I just taste it to see what it needs.” Her ingredients --- in addition to Great Northern beans --- include a ham end or shoulder she’s baked in advance, chopped celery, onions and shredded carrots “to give it a little bit of color.” Alice says she occasionally adds a little Major’s brand ham stock “to give it more flavor.”

Flavor and fun are guaranteed throughout the whole afternoon, or at least until the block shoot ends, with the final drawings for cash prizes, around 5:00 p.m. Hot dogs and sauerkraut will be on hand, together with beer, shooters galore, and many who come not so much for shooting as for soup and socializing. Organizers will hold special prize drawings throughout the day, with chances to buy tickets in that popular Jeep raffle that our volunteer firefighters hope will help pay for a new fire truck arriving this summer.

Come early. “Last year we sold out of the soup,” says Alice, who recently received a plaque from Mount Gretna’s fire company for 50 years of volunteer service. Soup perfected over more than 50 years? No wonder it’s “the best,” by official proclamation of His Honor. Without peer, without challenge, without question.

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Our next issue will have more details on what promises to be another glorious summer in Mount Gretna. Please send your announcements, questions, and suggestions to We always appreciate hearing from people sharing our affection for Mount Gretna, wherever in the world they happen to live. And remember that back issues of the newsletter appear on the web at

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue