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Mount Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 27, June 12, 2003


Almost everywhere you look in Mount Gretna these days, more and more people seem dedicated to the proposition that constantly doing things better is --- or ought to be --- a way of life.

In Japan, they call it “kaizen,” meaning the quest for continual improvement. In Mount Gretna, they call it . . . well, nobody quite knows exactly. It's simply part of a creative spirit that infuses life here, coexisting alongside a balanced determination to preserve the best of all that has gone before.

In the past few weeks, between frequent rainfalls that nearly set a record, Met Ed crews were out along Rte. 117, replacing four spans of 13,200-volt primary conductor that routine survey patrols thought could lead to an eventual power outage. Not an emergency, but part of what area manager Jim Bates, who keeps an eagle eye on the reliability index here, calls “a continuing, aggressive effort to do everything possible to improve Mount Gretna’s electrical service.”

At Gretna Music’s June 22 concert, perhaps the largest and most talented group of musicians ever assembled here will take the stage to honor conductor Don Jaeger, who (between appearances at Avery Fisher and Carnegie Halls with Van Cliburn, Leontyne Price, and the Canadian Brass) has been coming to Mount Gretna each summer for the past 20 years.

And on almost every street throughout the community, folks are fixing up their homes. Renovations are underway in every direction. Not just minor fix-ups, but major remodelings --- transforming cottages once intended only as summer weekend getaways into comfortable havens for year-round living. The energy, effort, and investments are having an impact. Property values here are definitely going up, say realtors. One area home sold recently for more than $400,000. Earlier this year, a cottage that sold for $160,000 less than eight years ago brought $307,000.

Another visible change: the Mount Gretna Design Center nearing completion along Rte. 117. Owner John Mitchell says that although the rains delayed construction, he’s planning for an opening in late July or early August. Inside the 4,200-sq.-ft. two-story building, he hopes to lease space upstairs for offices and downstairs for perhaps art galleries, a coffee shop, and maybe even a beauty shop. The center will also be headquarters for La Cigale (see, his business of colorful imported tablecloths --- now proving popular at home and garden shows up and down the East Coast.

At Le Sorelle, the Wednesday-through-Sunday crowds continue to build as word of the Lamont sisters’ appealing menus spreads throughout Mount Gretna and to surrounding communities. They’re hoping to soon begin serving patrons on the newly expanded front porch facing the Chautauqua park. And, just in case last summer’s sweltering temperatures should ever return, they’ve added a huge new air-conditioning unit.

At Gretna Theater, local residents are looking forward to the “Crimes of the Heart” performance June 28. It will be free to anyone who lives in Mount Gretna, as part of Gretna Theater’s “Come Home to Gretna Theater” theme this season.

“We’re hoping that many of our neighbors will rediscover what’s going on at the Playhouse and find that coming to here is a good time,” says Keith Volker, the theater’s new general manger. “Enjoying plays and musicals here is partly why many people came to live in Mount Gretna in the first place. We want them to rediscover and reaffirm the reasons they came to live here. So any seats we have available that night, we’re going to give free to Mount Gretna residents.”

Constant improvements? Everywhere you look. Affirmations of value. Balanced by respect for the venerable past. Part of the spirit, the tempo, the essence of Robert Habersham Coleman’s enduring vision.


Former Mount Gretna mayor Hoagy Hogentogler, now living near Port Canaveral, Fla., recalls the time when Bob Hope’s USO Troupe was at Camp Pendleton in California, entertaining the 1st Marine Division, soon bound for Korea. One of Hoagy’s buddies somehow arranged for special seats backstage. Between acts with Les Brown’s Band of Renown, sidekick Jerry Colona and singer Margaret Whiting, the famous comedian sat down next to Hoagy.

“Where you from, Marine?” Hope asked. “I told him Pennsylvania and immediately shut up because I was so nervous,” said Hoagy, who reached into the sock where he always kept his Chesterfield cigarettes and offered one to Hope. The famous comedian replied that he didn’t smoke. "But you advertise them on your radio show," said Hoagy. “Yes,” said Hope, “but I don't smoke."

Hoagy was so nervous he forgot to get an autograph. But he remembers the advice he got that day on how to live to be 100.


Was there ANYTHING good about last winter? Yes --- it made life tough for woolly adelgids, those tiny insects that can fell even the tallest hemlocks. “Hard winters reduce the woolly adelgid population,” says horticulturalist Ginger Pryor, adding that heavy spring rains have also helped restore hemlock vitality. So this year, at the Mine Road home where she and her family have lived since 1984, Ginger has seen far fewer telltale white cotton masses forming along hemlock stems whenever the insects attack.

But the battle is far from over. Mild winters, droughts and other conditions promote woolly adelgids and weaken the hemlocks, which Ginger says are native to Pennsylvania, but not necessarily Mount Gretna. “People planted them here because they’re stately trees, green with attractive form and fine needles.” A few may have naturally grown up around the lake and streams, but she suspects that most were planted here, probably in the late 1800s.

Ginger, who moved here from Colorado and now serves on the staff of Lebanon’s Penn State agricultural extension bureau, says her agency regularly holds free seminars advising homeowners on practical steps they can take to protect their trees and gardens. “Protecting hemlocks is a lifelong endeavor,” she says. “You can’t just treat and forget them. Early spring is the best time to use organic sprays, before newly hatched woolly adelgids reach adult stage.” Under severe attacks, she says, pesticide injections by arborists may be necessary. For more information, contact her at 270-4391.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Wanamakers’ organist Rudolph Lucente, who also performs regularly at Longwood Gardens, will appear in Mount Gretna twice this summer: first on July 10 as part of the Thursday night series at the Hewitt-McAnney residence, then on Aug. 12 in Cicada’s Philadelphia Organ Quartet concert.

[] “This Week in Mount Gretna” now offers online and mail subscriptions to the weekly update listing area events, schedule changes, local advertisements, and discount coupons. Details: Call 964-1866, or e-mail

[] Gretna Theater’s Judy Weimer seeks volunteers with a flair for entertaining and decorating to help with this season’s opening night galas June 24, July 8 and 22, and Aug. 19. Call 964-3568 to sign up.

[] Judy reports an outstanding response to this year’s call for volunteers. She has a few spots open at the Playhouse and in the concession stand. Call her with the dates and times you’re willing to serve (964-3568).

[] Don Jaeger, the conductor Gretna Music honors June 22, has strong ties to many Festival Chamber Orchestra performers. He was on the jury that awarded first prize to pianist Ludmil Angelov at an international competition and once taught Metropolitan Opera Orchestra principal oboist Elaine Douvas.

[] Chautauqua residents are cleaning out their basements, emptying closets, and getting ready for the annual Large Item Collection Day June 16. Old stoves, refrigerators, and similar bulky discards are welcome. No hazardous materials, please.

[] Campmeeting residents hold their annual Porch Sale from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. June 14. Concurrently, Mount Gretna’s Library will sponsor a “Take What You Want, Pay What You Want” sale on the library porch to benefit Lebanon’s Humane Society.

[] Cartographers are developing trail maps for Governor Dick Park, but the maps probably won’t be ready until the Nature Center is finished later this year. Meanwhile, board officials will review this month revised bids for the new 2,200-sq.-ft. log cabin center.

[] A couple planning to attend Myerstown’s Evangelical School of Theology would like to rent a cottage (preferably three bedrooms) here for 36 months. They’ve owned their own home for more than 20 years, “so minor repairs aren’t a problem.” Tel. (717) 519-0767.

[] Borough crewmembers Joey Wise, Scott Cooling, and Scott Krissinger pitched in to help Mount Gretna garden club members with planting and landscaping chores last month, creating an attractive addition to the new Carnegie Avenue entrance

[] This year’s Dream Machine classic car show (open to any make, any year) begins at 2:00 p.m. June 21. Proceeds benefit the Mount Gretna fire company. Entry forms available online at A “Pastimes” concert at the Tabernacle immediately follows the show.

[] Fire company fund-raisers are planning a 2004 edition of the Mount Gretna Cookbook. Previous editions sold out quickly. For information or to reserve advance copies, call Scott Zellers (964-3233), Tom Miller (964-2325), or e-mail

[] Campmeeting residents invite ALL Mount Gretnans to a community picnic July 26 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Hot dogs, baked beans, desserts, games and visits with friends are main ingredients. Food donations and volunteer helpers welcome. Everyone’s invited, says organizer Martha Brod (964-2018), e-mail

[] Rapho Township roadmaster John Haldeman says rain delays make it unlikely the Pinch Road bridge-rebuilding project (which started May 7) will be finished before mid July. Meanwhile, Pinch Road traffic to and from Rte. 72 is using the Cider Press Road detour.

[] Former Mount Gretnans Lynee Porter and Jim Polczynski invite dinner patrons to join them in solving an honest-to-goodness murder at The Cornwall Inn’s first murder “mystery” dinner June 21. The $40 five-course meal includes wine. Reservations: (717) 306-6178, (888) 313-3969, or e-mail:

[] Karl Kerchner wants to buy two of the Mount Gretna Fire Company 2001 commemorative mugs (depicting the Playhouse). Call 964-1385 or e-mail him at (This year’s mug, third in a series of Eleanor Sarabia designs, is selling fast. Proceeds benefit the fire company.)

[] Cornwall borough’s police department holds its yard sale this Saturday (June 14) starting at 8:00 a.m. Sale proceeds benefit families in need at Christmastime. Mount Gretnans are always generous supporters, says organizer Shirley Trimmer, hoping for a sunny day. She’ll reschedule if it rains.

[] Cornwall police will begin using their new mini cruiser, a golf cart-sized vehicle with a top speed of 37 mph that officials say will be ideal for patrolling the narrow streets of Mount Gretna and other communities.


60 Years of marriage, celebrated June 6 by Jack and Jeanine Bitner, full-time residents at 24 Muhlenberg Ave. since 1980. Jack, a retired aerospace engineer, spent every summer here as a youth and is the author of “Mount Gretna: A Coleman Legacy,” published in 1990.

18 Estimated percentage of Mount Gretnans who seemingly forgot that Monday, May 26, was Memorial Day and put their trash out early --- about 32 hours before pickup trucks arrived on Tuesday.

200 Candles, according to one “guesstimate,” that will be lighted at dusk during this year’s July Fourth celebration. How did the candle tradition begin? One reader thinks it probably started about 50 years ago, when Dave Baker designed and produced some 500 of the unique candleholders (made from nail spikes). Ever since, youngsters have delighted in collecting big balls of melting wax as lighted candles burned alongside trees and rocks, signaling that fireworks would soon begin. (Have fond memories and details of other Mount Gretna traditions? Send your remembrances to

14 Wedding parties now scheduled this year at The Timbers, the busiest wedding spot in town. Next is Mount Gretna’s United Methodist Church, with eight weddings planned this year. Four others will take place in the Tabernacle, and three receptions are booked at Chautauqua’s Community Building. The Heights Community Building and Mount Gretna Inn each have two wedding-related events so far. And each year, of course, some weddings take place in private homes and gardens throughout the community.

300 Hemlocks, each more than four inches in diameter, in the Campmeeting alone, says supervisor Merv Lentz, who recently finished spraying them all as part of a program of continued vigilance (see story above) against the woolly adelgids.

19 Rainy days last month, nearly equaling the 20-out-of-31-day record set in May 1968, says meteorologist Eric Horst. And yes, since spring began March 21, it has rained on eight weekends out of 12.

26 Employees at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s Mount Gretna maintenance shed (with 12 dump trucks, three pickup trucks, and other roadway equipment to keep things humming).

635 Employees at Mount Gretna area’s largest employer, Philhaven Hospital. (Next largest in the area: lumber manufacturer Weaber, Inc., with 500.)

1,671 Typical number of cars, trucks and motorcycles passing the Mount Gretna store and post office along Rte. 117 on an average day, according to a report last month from Lebanon’s Planning Commission.

Speaking of traffic, some mind-numbing numbers: Over the past 23 years, the miles of roads in the U.S. have increased 2.4% while, in the same period, the number of registered vehicles has increased 39.8% (with a 31.2% increase in the number of drivers). And the time people spend in traffic? That’s grown 232%, say the Federal Highway Administration and Texas Transportation Institute. All of which affirms, once again, why it’s great to live in Mount Gretna where the closest thing to gridlock is Saturday mornings at the post office.

3,731 Cars and trucks using the turnpike’s Exit 20 (Lancaster/Lebanon) daily.

(Now then, is there anything you can’t find out by reading this newsletter?)

THOMAS L. HERB (1923-2003)

He began coming to Mount Gretna, to the cottage his parents owned in the Campmeeting, almost from the day he was born. They brought him here straight from Lebanon Hospital’s maternity ward on one hot day in July 1923. He spent the next 17 summers here. Playing with chums like Pete Light (now one of Conewago Hills’ longest-term residents). Hiking up to Governor Dick. Swimming at Lake Conewago. Occasionally dropping in at the post office, located then exactly where it is today, to see his grandfather, Ed Dissinger, Mount Gretna’s postmaster during the Depression era.

Tom Herb went on to serve in World War II, then married Joy, a Philadelphia native. They had two children. Last year, his son, Thomas L. III, was married at the 22 Hollobaugh Ave. Mount Gretna Heights residence his parents had bought several years ago. The home was to be a primary retirement spot for the senior Herbs, who lived much of the time in Virginia, where over a 32-year career he had risen through the ranks of a multinational private engineering firm to become one of its vice presidents. But as often as he could, he got back to Mount Gretna, “a place that he loved,” says Joy. “He will soon come back for good,” she says. “He died in Falls Church on May 10. I will bring his ashes and scatter them here. I know that is what he wanted.”

THOMAS C. SHAY (1933-2003)

He was always the first customer to show up at Bob Andrews’ store, often leaving money for his newspaper even before Bob himself arrived. The local Rotary club honored him last year as citizen of the year. And when it came to seeing to it that military veterans received burials with honor and dignity, nobody did it better than Tom Shay, of 200 Timber Road. “I can’t even guess how many funerals he presided over as commander of Lebanon’s VFW Post 23 honor guard,” said Bill Andrews, a longtime friend. “It must have been in the hundreds.”

Providing proper military honors for deceased veterans became a life mission for Tom Shay, himself a Korean War veteran. “He was dedicated to seeing, whenever possible, that veterans whose families wanted a military burial would get one,” said Lebanon’s Marlin Wolf Sr., a fellow member of the 15-member squad that sounds “Taps” and fires volleys over military caskets at Indiantown Gap.

At Tom Shay’s funeral May 28, two buglers played “Taps.” One stood in front of the mourners, another, standing in the distance, played a soft echo which, as Mount Gretna’s Tom Bowman reported in a moving tribute, sounded “like an echo, rolling off the wet hills.” He was the husband of Ellen C. Stefonich Shay of Mount Gretna and is survived by two children, four grandchildren, a sister, and several nieces and nephews.

BARRY O. MILLER (1934-2003)

He led with a kind and gentle demeanor, often proving the most effective teaching method is simply a good example. A former teacher, superintendent of schools, and a vice president of one of the area’s most successful clothing retailers, Barry O. Miller gave special devotion to Mount Gretna, a community that he and his family have cherished for more than two decades.

Barry and wife Betty played a key role during the playhouse reconstruction project. They traveled to Waldheim Park in Emmaus, Pa., where a tabernacle nearly identical to the original Mount Gretna Playhouse had also collapsed in the winter of 1994. Both had been designed and built before the turn of the century by John Cilley. Barry suggested using the same architect and laminated truss concept that Waldheim had used in rebuilding their tabernacle. Suddenly, a financially practical vision for rebuilding the Mount Gretna Playhouse emerged. Barry helped shape that vision.

In addition to serving as secretary of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, he was a former president of Guy K. Bard Education Fund trustee board. He was also a member of the Hershey Community Chorus and served as chairman of the Ephrata Township Planning Commission. Barry, who died June 6, was also a former member and secretary of the board of trustees of Lancaster’s First United Methodist Church, North Duke and Walnut Streets, where a memorial service will be held this Saturday, June 14, at 4:30 p.m.


"All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism." --- Anon.


“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” said Samuel Johnson.

Far be it from us to challenge the venerable creator of “The Dictionary of the English Language.”

Yet we find many rich rewards in writing this free newsletter. It brings us in touch with so many people around the world who share our affection for Mount Gretna. We also appreciate the kind and thoughtful notes we receive, the newsworthy suggestions for stories to share, and the abiding appreciation that our readers have for this community. All this adds to the zest of life. And, although “zest” probably never appeared in Mr. Johnson’s dictionary, it’s often more valuable than money.

Please continue your gracious practice of forwarding this newsletter to others who may not yet know about it, and printing copies for friends and neighbors who do not yet have e-mail. (One reader who lives here tells us that she gets her news about Mount Gretna by mail --- from a friend who receives it in Arizona.) For all the help of so many people who aid us in gathering and sharing the news, our sincere thanks.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce (213 Stevens Avenue)

P.S. A reminder that you can find previous issues of this newsletter on the web at You’ll also discover colorful photos depicting recent community happenings 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: Monday, May 26, 2003 9:35 PM
Subject: Coming Soon, Another Issue of Mt. Gretna's E-Mail Newsletter

Another edition of Mount Gretna’s e-mail newsletter will soon be taking shape.

Please send your news, notes, and queries to We're pleased to bring news of events here to a growing network of readers around the world. Regardless of where they now live, or how many years have passed since they last were here, all seem keenly interested in this community.

Perhaps it’s because, for reasons nobody can explain, Mount Gretna is where uncommonly good, interesting, and proficient people have congregated for more than a century, and where today good things just naturally seem to happen:

Indeed, good things are happening everywhere you look:

Volunteers like Janice Balmer and Leslie Hall Buchanan, supported by a small army of enthusiastic helpers, set the season in motion with last Saturday's gala Summer Premiere and Auction (see Mount Gretna artists like Larry Lombardo, Dale Grundon, Eleanor Sarabia, and others gave works that brought generous bids, helping underwrite the more than 70-page annual Calendar of Events (now available online at

Gretna Theater’s new artistic director Will Stutts perhaps best summed up the community’s spirit and shared destiny by affirming Gretna Theater an integral part of Mount Gretna. “I am acutely aware that most patrons and subscribers of theater at Gretna come from outside Mount Gretna," he told premiere patrons last Saturday. "We need to make a Herculean effort to change that, and we will go to every measure to do so.” The next day, in a Lancaster Sunday News interview, he added, “I am well aware that part of the attraction here is the Mount Gretna Playhouse and the community itself. I plan to honor that.”

As part of its “Come Home to Gretna” theme this year, Gretna Theater is dedicating to Mount Gretna residents its June 28 performance of Beth Henley’s Pulitzer prizewinning play “Crimes of the Heart.” Residents will be able to exchange at the box office free coupons for tickets to this special performance.

Good things are also happening at Mount Gretna’s fire company. Buyers are snapping up those $10 Jeep raffle tickets, adding 2003 commemorative coffee mugs to their collection, taking part in those spring and fall block shoot fundraisers, signing up for the sixth annual classic car show June 21, and stuffing generous donations into the fire company's direct mail appeal envelopes.

In remarks at the summer premiere, Arts Council president Tom Clemens underscored perhaps the single most important reason our volunteer firefighters, more than many others, receive such extraordinary support: “Walk around Mount Gretna and look at these wooden buildings. Anyone who thinks the fire company is unimportant needs to think again. Whenever you have an extra $10 to give, give it to the fire company.”

Giving to the Mount Gretna fire company, of course, is what one resident here did for most of his positive, productive, and generosity-filled life. . .

“CAPPY” STANDISH 1938-2003

He organized the friendly, festive, and financially bountiful block shoots every year. He pitched in to help with nearly every other fire company fundraiser that anybody ever thought up. And for nearly two decades, he led the company as chief, building its talents, equipment and reputation into a formidable composite that any community would be proud of.

Albert F. “Cappy” Standish, Jr., of 109 Maple St., one of those quiet people who make a positive difference with their lives, died May 15 while cutting grass on the grounds of the fire company he loved. A retired manager at New Penn Motor Express, Cappy was 65. He and wife Janice had planned to begin spending more time at their vacation home in North Carolina. The family requested that instead of flowers, donations go to the Mount Gretna fire company. It is there, say friends and fellow volunteers, that this summer they will dedicate a picnic grove in his honor.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue