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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 31, Nov. 25, 2003


The publishing schedule of this newsletter, probably the most relaxed in the history of American journalism, was thrown off by some unscheduled travels this month. But that’s probably just as well.

Last year, readers may recall, we opened our November issue by observing that, unlike The New York Times, here in the newsroom of The Mount Gretna Gazette, there are simply times when not much happens. And that’s as it should be. For lulls, pauses, and reflective interludes are the essence of Mount Gretna life itself. They’re what most of us in an otherwise hectic world find so appealing.

Not to say, of course, that everything here comes to a standstill. Just that in November, the tempo slows to the pace of a weary bicyclist struggling up Pinch Road.

But there IS news to report, sort of. Our vultures are back. Fewer, but persistent as ever. So are our volunteers, determined to finally alter roosting habits ingrained over a quarter century. Our money's on the volunteers. When they began three years ago, over 600 buzzards were swarming into town every November. This year, their numbers were down to about 125. And nobody can say for sure whether they're veterans from the battles of past years or simply bored newcomers, scouting what they've heard is one of the top winter resorts in Birdom.

With help from the U.S.D.A., our volunteers are taking careful measures to encourage the beady-eyed visitors to roost elsewhere, using noisemakers only when necessary to shoo the most determined birds away. Bright lights, they find, are effective deterrents. Volunteers invite others to help in the coordinated campaign. If you’d like to join in, tell one of the folks out rousting the flock any evening just before sunset. They’ll happily put you in touch with campaign organizers.

Otherwise, the biggest and perhaps most welcome news in town is the store has now reopened. Bob Andrews returned this month from the first vacation he’s taken in seven years. “I’m not much for this publicity stuff,” says Bob, with typical modesty. Yet he admits that it is satisfying to offer a service that so many others appreciate. “Many people have been very nice in telling me how much they missed the store while I was away,” he says.

And everyone, it seems, is digging in to help pay for that new $170,000 fire engine. Pegge Shannon donated proceeds from her artists’ open house this month, Kathy Snavely’s mountaintop neighbors are selling soup, Scott Zellers and Tom Miller are out selling those commemorative coffee mugs at stores throughout the community, and people like John Condrack were busy all summer long selling tickets in the Jeep raffle (won, incidentally, by Lititz resident Ron Frederick, who bought a ticket from John during the annual tour of homes last August.) Volunteers were once again making sure the Halloween parade was a delight for young and old alike, as they gathered for post-parade refreshments at the fire company (see Part of the can-do spirit that you find everywhere in a town blessed with talent and energy, seemingly in equal abundance. Dedication? Yes, lots of it. But also a somber realization: As Dr. Tom Clemens reminds us, “Anyone who wonders whether our fire department is vital has only to look around at all the homes and cottages made of wood.”


In case you haven’t noticed, Mount Gretna is becoming a favorite performance setting for some of the area’s top organists, including several with national reputations.

“We realized several years ago that although organ concerts were a part of the Chautauqua experience in New York, none were held here,” says Peter Hewitt. He and Walter McAnney, himself an accomplished organist, began planning a recital series.

The series now attracts talents regularly appearing at the famed organs at Wanamaker’s Department Store and Longwood Gardens, and even the youngest professor ever to teach at New York’s famed Juilliard School of Music. “It’s a joy to see these recitals growing year by year,” says Peter, who helped assemble those four organists performing onstage simultaneously last summer, during one of the most memorable concerts ever presented at the Mount Gretna Playhouse.

Peter promises an exciting lineup for the 2004 organ recital series. Concerts will include performances by Wanamaker’s organist Peter Conte, the organist at Harrisburg’s St. Stephens Cathedral, and duo organists Dr. Robert Fraser and Victor Fields who perform in a “dueling arms and hands” recital simultaneously from the same bench.

Walter’s own concert earlier this month attracted some 70 people. When the concert was over, audience members lingered, then suddenly began a spontaneous singing of hymns that lasted well into the evening. “Everybody was singing their hearts out and having a wonderful time,” says Peter. He and Walter hope to offer a similar event at their home early next year.

So popular have the concerts become that Peter is now lining up performers for the 2005 season. He hopes to bring back to Mount Gretna Peter Jacobs, who appeared here several years ago and has since become the youngest professor on the Juilliard faculty. Jacobs also was the first organist to receive the Harvard Music Association’s prestigious Arthur W. Foote award. He recently performed the complete organ works of J. S. Bach three times in a single year. Jacobs is also organist and choirmaster at New York’s St. Stephen’s Church. In 1999, he won top honors at the Fort Wayne National Organ Competition.

“Sometimes you have great ideas, or think you do, but they don’t often flourish,” says Peter. “It’s very comforting when one does.”

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Yes, ice skating will return to Lake Conewago again this year, weather permitting. Officials drained the lake recently to allow for a routine inspection of the dam. Once the inspections are done, they’ll immediately open the valves, enabling a return to normal water levels.

[] The logs are delivered. A tin roof once thought too costly is now back in the plans. And work continues on schedule for that 2,200-square-foot Nature Center at Governor Dick Park. Officials expect it’ll be ready for the grand opening sometime next spring.

[] Ever notice how hikers who parked on Pinch Road to climb Governor Dick find themselves wandering along Rte. 117, wondering how to get back to their cars? Trail markers soon will help lessen confusion, perhaps eliminating those long, lonely walks back up the hill.

[] Gretna Music honors its new executive director Nov. 30. Michael Murray, former general manager of the Diablo Valley (Calif.) Philharmonic, has also served as an international business and software development specialist. He moved here with his wife and two children earlier this month.

[] Le Sorelle Porch & Pantry café, that popular spot for relaxing breakfasts and lunches Wednesdays through Saturdays, reopens this Saturday Nov. 29. For Christmas, they’ll be closed from Wednesday, Dec. 24, reopening Saturday, Jan. 3. See

[] Without electricity, Campmeeting water supplies can last up to two days. “But there were times last year when I worried,” says supervisor Merv Lentz. He now has a first-priority contract with an emergency generator supplier, assuring that water will flow even during sustained power outages.

[] Favorite scene each fall and spring: Betty Miller, as she's done for years, raking leaves around the Playhouse, radiating a spirit of love and caring rarely matched in any community.

[] Steve Strickler doesn’t know exactly when that new timed electrical lock will go on the post office door. But when it does, he’s hoping to keep the post office open from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., allowing ample time for after-hours mail pickups.

[] Expecting a parcel but can’t get to the post office window before it closes at 4:30 p.m.? Call 964-3804. Steve or Kathy will leave a special key in your regular mailbox, giving you access to one of those after-hours parcel pick-up boxes.

[] Gretna Theater artistic director Will Stutts will appear onstage as Mark Twain next spring, possibly a week before the traditional Black Eagles opening concert. Planners hope to transform the Community Building into a Mississippi Plantation for a dinner party preceding the performances.

[] Our Florida readers can catch Will’s “One-Man Extraordinaire” show at Sarasota’s Asolo Festival at Florida State University’s Mertz Theater Jan. 28-Feb. 22.

[] Fire company volunteers are delighted with their new “attack piece” engine. Compared with the 20-year-old vehicle it replaced, the difference is “night and day,” says president Keith Volker. Now the challenge is assuring that personal donations and fundraisers will help pay off the $170,000 unit.

[] Mount Gretna’s 20 active firefighters soon will have the latest personal protective gear --- including air packs, thermal imaging cameras and air sampling devices --- thanks to a $106,000 federal grant finally awarded this year after three successive attempts.

[] Despite the welcome personal protection gear grant, which Congressman Holden will award next month, our volunteer firefighters still depend on private donations and fundraisers. Grant money can go only for personal gear. Volunteers still must find a way to pay for that new fire truck.

[] Commemorative fire company mugs are helping ease the debt load. Scott Zellers says a few of the 2003 edition are still available at local stores, including Collin’s Grocery in Colebrook. He offers special pricing on orders of 12 or more; call 964-3233.

[] Cornwall Inn presents the third annual Rail Trail Chef’s and Artists gala Dec. 14. Learn little-known kitchen secrets; shop for art and unique clothing; sample restaurant fares; win prizes. Tickets, at $15, are limited. Call to reserve yours in advance at (717) 306-6178.

[] Everyone’s invited to the 11th annual Christmas tree lighting, opposite the Post Office, Dec. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Community singing, anthems by the United Methodist Church choir, hot mulled cider and refreshments signal the holiday season’s official start in Mount Gretna.

[] Wondering just when Santa will arrive? He’ll ride in on a Mount Gretna fire truck Saturday, Dec. 20 without fail. No substitutes. No actors. No look-alikes. It’ll be Santa Himself, straight from the North Pole. Count on it.

[] Steve Strickler says Santa’s helpers are already stuffing the post office with packages, however. Those elves are off to a faster-than-ever start this year, he says.

[] Another new patrol car soon will join the Cornwall police fleet. What fate awaits the one it replaces? Most likely, it will be reborn as a taxi. Previous Cornwall squad cars now are ferrying passengers in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago.

[] Gretna Music heralds the holiday season with a Dec. 6 concert at Elizabethtown College that combines the singing of carols with Vivaldi’s Gloria and Schubert’s Mass in G Major, performed by the Concert Artists of Baltimore. Tickets: (717) 361-1508.

[] Jim Seltzer ( is heading a group to restore the 16th Pennsylvania Volunteer monument near Lakeview Drive. The decaying monument (see is one of the last memorials to Mount Gretna’s “Camp Hastings,” a site visited by President Benjamin Harrison, General Pershing and other notables.

[] Bill Care, likely one of the best-conditioned borough superintendents in Pennsylvania, is also now one of the fastest. He placed second recently in a statewide race in Arendtsville, Adams County, for cyclists over age 50, beating three former national champions.

[] Linda Bell hopes to swing into action soon with that new do-almost-anything Tool Cat just added to Mount Gretna’s fleet. Normally a demure and efficient borough secretary, Linda, at the first sign of a snowflake, says Bill Care, becomes a “snow warrior.”

[] Artworks by Mount Gretna’s Shelby Applegate are now part of a traveling exhibit that began earlier this year at Harrisburg’s Doshi Gallery. Officials at a Davidson, N.C. gallery, seeking ideas, selected two of Shelby’s works to include in their juried show, near Charlotte

[] So just what was in Elaine Baum’s award-winning Harvest Chowder at the fire company’s soup tasting? Don’t know, exactly. Whatever the ingredients and her renowned skill in mixing them, they helped Elaine win top honors at the annual competition earlier this month.

[] Kathy Snavely says there’s plenty left over from a recent neighborhood soup sale to benefit the fire company. Chicken corn noodle soup is $5 a quart, the vegetable soup sells for $4: packaged, frozen, ready for reheating. Contact her at or 964-1866.

[] Cornwall Police have begun giving away the first of some 800 firearm safety kits, including gun locks, to area residents. Part of a nationwide ChildSafe program, the locks fit most types of handguns, rifles and shotguns. To pick up your free kit, call 274-2071

[] Another reason to buy Mount Gretna T-shirts: Wearing theirs and climbing mountains outside Phoenix last week, Joe and Laura Feather met another rock-climbing couple from Brownstown (near Ephrata, Lancaster County). Even 2,011 miles from home, “they greeted us instantly,” says Laura.

[] Cornwall police secretary Shirley Trimmer will use the nearly $300 gained through community-wide yard sale donations this summer to provide Christmas gifts for this year’s neediest family. Once recipients are chosen, Mount Gretna borough staffers traditionally contribute specific items the family may need.

[] Nobody’s sure why, but although more deer seem to be lurking this year along the roadways leading into Mount Gretna, fewer are being hit by automobiles, police say. Savvier deer? More cautious motorists? Perhaps both.

[] Cornwall police have hired their ninth patrolman and hope to soon add two more. Robert F. Peebles, Jr. rejoins the force as a part-time officer. He had served on the force full-time before becoming a physical education teacher at Cedar Crest High several years ago.

[] Record-setting crowds came to Mount Gretna for the fifth annual artists’ studio tour this month. Shelby Applegate reports visitors came from Baltimore, Reading and Philadelphia. Les Miller’s Lebanon Ave. studio and Barbara Fishman’s “Studio in the Woods” were also on the 25-stop, three-county tour.


120,000 Miles on that Cornwall police Crown Victoria patrol car now being auctioned.
Specialty firms usually place the winning bids, converting old squad cars to
taxis. And why not? They’re large and comfortable, and their rear passenger
seats hardly ever get used.

125 Turkey vultures returning to Mount Gretna this season. Three years ago, the
flock numbered more than 600.

49 Years the Pennsylvania National Guard camp remained in Mount Gretna (1885
to 1934) before moving to Fort Indiantown Gap. A preservation group now
seeks to restore the monument along Lakeview Drive (see "In Brief," above).


Readers have alerted us to the passing several months ago of Robert M. Edris, 134 Timber Lane, who formerly served as an executive at both AMP, Inc. and Hershey Foods. He grew up in Mount Gretna and is well-remembered by several people here, including Charlotte Allwein, who recalls that Robert, as well as a brother and sister, were once employees at the Jigger Shop. So, too, was his daughter, with whom he paid a visit to their favorite ice cream parlor late last summer. He was a 1975 graduate of Lebanon Valley College and held a master’s degree in information systems from Shippensburg University.

We also note the passing Oct. 6 of C. Lloyd Peifer, 91, who formerly lived along Pennsylvania Ave. with his wife Mildred E. Peifer, who passed away in 2001. Born in Landisville, he had served during World War II with the Army Air Corps. He retired as a plumber and is survived by a stepson Thomas, husband of Carol McMahan of Morristown, N.J., two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Shell R. Alpert, 72, 114 Lancaster Ave., Chautauqua, died on Oct. 15. Over a 40-year career he became one of the chief authorities on direct mail and response advertising. He had lived in Mount Gretna since 1986, was a frequent contributor to leading marketing journals, and had served as a copywriter for Readers’ Digest, The Book-of-the-Month Club and others. He is survived by his wife, Margaret O’Neil, a daughter Sharron, son Daniel Alpert, stepchildren Robert, William and Elizabeth and seven grandchildren. A son, Scott, preceded him in death.

D. Marlin Shope, D.D.S., of 309 First Street, Campmeeting, died at age 78 on Oct. 20. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and Temple Dental School, he was a retired children’s dentist, practicing in the local area, including the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, for many years. A World War II veteran who received the Purple Heart and three battle stars, he fought in Normandy, France and the Rhineland, where he became a prisoner of war. He was the husband of the late Trude “Snooky” Cooper Shope and is survived by daughter Marla, wife of Charles Pitt, D.D.S., of Mount Gretna; son Mark C., husband of Leonida Shope of Annville; brother Errol Shope of Middletown; two grandchildren; and a nephew. He had been a member of Mount Gretna’s United Methodist Church for 50 years.

And former Mount Gretna resident Augustus M. “Mac” Freeman Jr., 63, died Oct. 25 at a nursing home in Maryland. He was the husband of Elizabeth A. Kramer Freeman, who died July 6. A retired Air Force officer, he is survived by three sons, two daughters, a sister and four grandchildren. He was a 1964 graduate of Texas A&M University and held a master’s degree from the University of Southern California.


Now and then something reminds us of yet one more aspect of Mount Gretna life that so many of us treasure.

A recent newspaper survey on the booming growth of surrounding townships, for example, cited the memories of an 80-year-old Palmyra resident. Amid plans for new housing developments, feasibility studies for schools, and highway expansion projects she said sadly, “This used to be a place where you knew everybody. There are too many people now, and you don’t know anybody.” Which brings us ‘round to one of the many virtues of Mount Gretna, a very small town indeed, encircled by State game lands and in no particular hurry to lunge toward what others deem “progress.”

Above all, it’s a place where people know their neighbors. Or where the wishes of those wanting to retain their privacy are granted, respectfully. A place of ideas, energy, talents and goodwill. A place like no other. And a place for which, in this season of the year especially, we are indeed thankful.

Our best wishes to readers both here and around the world. Please continue to circulate this newsletter to friends and neighbors without access to e-mail. And a reminder that, thanks to Keith Volker and the Mount Gretna Inn, if you accidentally delete this newsletter before others in your household get a chance to read it, you can always find it posted on the web at

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue