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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 33, Feb. 11, 2004


“It’s been chilly, chilly, chilly,” thumped the e-mail message from one of our favorite readers. Yet, she wasn’t describing icicle-festooned Pennsylvania. Like hundreds of other Mount Gretnans who dispatch e-mail messages to us from warmer parts of the globe, our cheery correspondent winters in Florida. Yet even there this year, folks wonder whether the winter of ’04 will go down in the record books.

In Mount Gretna, even as a welcome thaw begins this week, the debate goes on. “January was the worst I can remember,” says Jack Bitner, who’s spent the past 23 years here, both winter and summer. “Other months may have had colder weather for a day or two, but this is the worst continuous cold we’ve seen.”

Evidence abounds: Plumbers called to repair pipes frozen solid. Residents hovering inside rather than risking slippery ventures onto walkways covered by inch-thick ice. Borough crews spreading salt by the tons and running snowplows late into the night. Everyone keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that as temperatures dropped, ice-coated power lines would remain intact.

Campmeeting supervisor Merv Lentz watched his thermometer fall to minus two, then to minus four, degrees. It’s the first time in 20 years he’s seen pipes freeze inside cottages—in drain traps—even though owners had shut off water for the season.

Coldest winter on record? If not, it probably comes close, says Pete Light, who’s lived in Conewago Hills for 68 years. Pat Atwood, his sister, agrees. Both recall their first winter here during the Depression, as snow banks grew into mountains outside their parent’s cottage at the corner of Princeton and Harvard avenues. “When the snow piled up three feet, you had to shovel it,” says Pete. “There were no snowblowers. And when you’re a child, everything seems bigger.”

Yet, borough supervisor Bill Care, who tracks such details, says in 1976, his first winter here, the frost line plunged to a depth of 42 inches, freezing underground water mains. This year, he says, frost lines range between 24 and 30 inches.

Maybe, says Pat Atwood, “but this still seems like a l-o-n-g winter.”

Anything good about it? Apart from ice-skating (see, it may be that the repetitive power failures of last year haven't recurred—yet. And they may not. Met Ed has “put time and effort into Mount Gretna over the last 12 months,” says area supervisor Jim Bates. “Not only trimming trees, but we’ve added protection devices and technology modifications” to assure uninterrupted electrical service. Jim says that Mount Gretna now ranks in the “top quartile of our circuits. And I would have to say that you’re in the top 10 percent of the circuits that get the attention.” Why? “Because I watch it closely,” he says. “I’m not saying that it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, but we have a strong desire to improve our reliability. And frankly, Mount Gretna, Spring Hill Acres and Cornwall—all with many trees—have been the worst performers in the past.”

Even with Met Ed’s heightened vigilance, however, many residents--after last year’s four successive outages (some lasting several days)--have added emergency generators. Tap Roberts says the Timbers just installed a propane-powered unit. “Last year, we had to get four generators out each time the power failed, fill them with gas, run extension cords, and keep refueling all day long. So we installed a huge generator,” she says. “I didn’t think much of it at first. But when the power goes off and that generator kicks in about a minute later, I tell you, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Even Met Ed’s Jim Bates regards emergency generators as a good idea. “Look at Fredericksburg when a tornado swept through during the summer a year or so ago. Those people were without power for four-and-a-half days. You never know when something like that is going to occur,” he says.

Few deny electricity’s critical role today. Pete Light, who retired as a dentist 18 years ago and now spends his days feeding raccoons and putting corn and salt blocks out for deer, remembers when Mount Gretna had only two streetlights, one by the post office and another by the tennis courts. “Electricity didn’t mean that much in those days because we had kerosene lights and wood stoves,” he says. But for today’s Mount Gretnans, even those wintering in Florida—electricity remains not merely essential. Especially on a cold day in winter, it is, as Tap Roberts beholds, “a beautiful thing.”


Lebanon’s commissioners last week endorsed that $144,000 grant to build a Mount Gretna extension leading from the Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails to Timber Road. Coordinator John Wengert expects construction will begin this fall.

The LVRT extension will help hikers, riders and joggers to stop off in Mount Gretna, perhaps grab a sandwich, and enjoy their stopover here. “People using the 12.5 mile trail sometimes get to Colebrook or Cornwall and tell us they had no idea they were even near Mount Gretna,” he says. The new extension will have well marked entry and exit points.

John, who worked in Rails-to-Trails’ Washington, DC headquarters before returning here to run the Wengert’s Dairy plant, says the grant needs $9,000 in local funding. Organizers are collecting donations at Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails, P. O. Box 2043, Cleona, PA 17042.

Since opening a little over three years ago, the trail (see has attracted thousands of hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Recently, growing numbers of cross-country skiers (including John himself) have begun using the trail, which stretches from Rte. 72 to Elizabethtown. Plans call for a northern extension into the city of Lebanon from Zinns Mill Road, lengthening the trail to 15 miles.

Volunteers helping with trail maintenance meet at the Colebrook parking lot on the last Saturdays of the month in spring and fall (April. 24, May 29, June 26, Sep. 25, and Oct 30). The sessions last from 9:00 a.m. until Noon and include raking, sawing limbs, and weed-cutting. John says they can use a little extra help.


Campmeeting year ‘rounders have seen it before. A small van pulls up, a fellow with wand-like instruments gets out, places a wand atop one of those heavy steel water covers. Walking down the street, he places an identical wand atop another water cover. Then he gets back into his truck and slips on a pair of headphones. He turns a few dials, fires up a computer, and listens. Minutes later, he emerges, runs a measuring wheel down the street, then stops and declares, “It’s here.”

What’s “here”?

A leak. Underground. Unseen. But not undetected, vows Campmeeting supervisor Merv Lentz, who began using state-of-the-art detection equipment several years ago to ferret out waterline leaks.

This year, Merv speeded up the schedule for his annual inspection. “I would have waited for better weather. But we were using some excess water—about 12,000 extra gallons a day—that I didn’t like,” he says. “So even though slush and ice covered the streets, we went looking for it. It didn’t take long. Using today’s equipment, we can pinpoint leaks within an inch or two even if snow covers the ground.”

More than 75 percent of waterline leaks occur underground, he says. So for the past four or five years, Merv has called in a consultant to make annual checks along the streets and under cottages throughout the Campmeeting. “Because you can’t see most leaks, people are often surprised when we call to tell them we’ve found one under their cottage,” he says. “But the leaks are there. We can spot them right on.”

As Merv Lentz marvels at technology’s miracles, others wonder: Will computers and electronic wands, miraculous though they may be, ever substitute for the experience, intuition, and wisdom of people like Merv, now in his 26th year of keeping the Campmeeting’s streets and utilities shipshape?


Last year, when we published a list of artists living and working in Mount Gretna, we came up with a list of more than 30.

Is it our imagination, or does Mount Gretna also attract an uncommonly large cluster of artists who excel in the kitchen rather than on canvas? How many among us spend time in restaurants professionally—either as owners, managers, chefs or canapé craftsmen? More than we thought.

Our list claims no finality, and we invite others to add to our roster. But here’s a start:

Natalie and Michael Bailey, who moved to Mount Gretna Heights 25 years ago, have joined her brother and sister-in-law at The Summy House in Manheim (where among the specialties is Brandied Salmon Oscar, see Their Maple Avenue neighbors, Jim and Mary Musser, own Hummelstown’s Deja Vu Eatery & Pub and Food Factory Pizzeria,
Valley Road resident John Horstick is an owner of the familiar Quentin House restaurant across from the riding club on Rte. 72. Former Eli’s owners Steve and Nancy Lynn, also of Timber Hills, run two restaurants: the Quentin Tavern on Rte. 419 and the new Horn & Horn restaurant in the former Pushnik’s Diner.

Before retiring, Brown Avenue’s Bob Hickey ran those Hickey’s Drive-In restaurants in Lancaster and Camp Hill. He also owned Poor Richard’s, a Carlisle Pike restaurant and motel. Chautauqua resident Bill Harrington, who divides his time between Florida and Pennsylvania, has long been the operator of several Burger Kings. It’s a partnership he once shared with the late Jack Edgerton, a director of the American Hotel and Restaurant Association who also owned a cottage on Brown Avenue. Former residents Al and Sue Pera run Camp Hill’s Cornerstone Coffee House, a consistent award-winner in area magazine reader surveys (see

Other Mount Gretna restaurateurs, of course, include the John Briody family. Daughter Becky runs a catering service. Her sisters Tap and Rachel lend their talents at the family-owned Timbers Dinner Theater and Restaurant. The Allwein family run the award-winning Jigger Shop. Jason Brandt has owned the popular Hideaway tavern for several years. And the Lamont sisters this month celebrate their first anniversary at Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry café (, where dinner favorites include the Mediterranean pasta with shrimp and artichoke hearts as well as the salmon in white wine dill sauce.

Others to add to this list? Pass along their names to us. After all, when dining out, it’s nice to dine with someone in the neighborhood.


As the new deadline of Feb. 19 loomed ever closer, the question remained: will enough people sign up for that July 14-17 trip to New York’s Chautauqua?

Organizers need at least 20 persons to get group rates and make the trip. They’re hoping the 16 who have so far said they’d like to go will encourage others to join them. Final costs, in addition to a $100 deposit, now place the trip at $621.72 per person for double occupancies and the single occupancy rate at $803.64. Those helping promote the trip say it’ll be well worth it.

“It’s an excellent chance to visit or revisit the New York Chautauqua, a beautiful place with wonderful programs” says Susan Wood. The lecture and forum theme that week: “Applied Ethics: What is the Business of Business?". Reverend Calvin Butts III of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church conducts morning services. The theater production is "My Children, My Africa". The Chautauqua Symphony performs Thursday evening, with special events on Wednesday, “An Evening with Mark Russell,” thee political humorist, and Friday, singer Randy Travis.

But the deadline looms ever nearer. Call Mary Ellen Kinch (717) 533-7330 to reserve your space and send your $100 deposit (payable to the Pennsylvania Chautauqua) to Mike Bell, P. O. Box 637, Mount Gretna, PA 17064.


Gretna Music offers volunteers “a near endless array of opportunities.” Needed are office workers to help with data entry and mailings, someone to set up and run Gretna Music’s boutique of gift items during concerts, “mathematically adept” box office workers, stage crews, graphic artists, publicists, photographers, web designers skilled in HTML and ASP, as well as folks who can serve as ushers to welcome concertgoers and help them find seats. (See full details at

Benefits, say executive director Michael Murray, include free concert admission and priority seating, plus sharing “that great feeling of contributing to Gretna Music's fine concerts.”

“Without volunteers, Gretna Music couldn’t exist,” says Michael, who recently moved here from California with his wife and two children. His experience includes work in software development, managing a community philharmonic orchestra, financial and sales management, and international business. He was also music and arts director for a church in Clayton, Calif. “Don’t be shy about volunteering,” he says.

Some volunteer positions “need a commitment of one day a month, some one day a week, others on an as-needed basis. We will work with you to adapt to your schedule. We ask for a time commitment only as large as you wish to make, but we do ask that we be able to rely on you for that commitment,” he says. Call him at 717-361-1513 to volunteer.


Max Hunsicker says when last seen, the remnants of Mount Gretna’s vulture flock were headed South, with detailed instructions on how to join all those snowbirds who escape each winter to places like South Carolina and Florida. They carry address cards so they can easily locate Mount Gretna's expatriates.

Inveighing against any unseemly proclamations of conquest, Max modestly notes that “we have been banger-free (as well as guano free) for about a month. I hesitate to declare victory, but I do think the volunteers have prevailed in this round of the ongoing battle.” He particularly appreciates the efforts of this year’s volunteers “to use less audible harassment techniques,” adding, “The objective is to improve the quality of life in the community. I believe we are having a visible impact.”

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Naturalist Larry Coble leads hikers on a “landmark trees survey” this Saturday (Feb. 14) starting at Colebrook’s LVRT trailhead at 10:00 a.m. The Conewago Creek Association wants to catalog historic, unique trees in the creek’s watershed. Call 367-5083 to register for bad weather cancellation. See

[] Pittsburgh Symphony concertmaster Andrés Cárdenes performs romantic violin sonatas of Schubert, Respighi and Fauré this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. in Gretna Music’s Elizabethtown College winter series. The series includes Baltimore and Philadelphia orchestra concertmasters, each performing cornerstones of solo violin literature. For tickets: 717-361-1508.

[] Volunteers created a colorful new commemorative afghan as the fire company’s newest fund-raiser. Now on sale at Mount Gretna Computing (964-1106), the 51”x 66” coverlet is $50 and depicts the Conewago Hotel, narrow-gauge railway, and other scenes from historic Mount Gretna postcards. See

[] Le Sorelle chefs pull out all the stops for Friday and Saturday Italian night patrons—with everything from pine nut-topped pesto capellini to pan fried trout. Reservations requested (964-3771). BYOB suggested. Upcoming dinner specials include Valentines, St. Patrick’s Day, and Think Spring (Apr. 23).

[] Cicada planners guarantee “something new” for their 10th anniversary year. Coordinator Peter Hewitt says the summer entertainment lineup they’ll announce next month will “widen interest in and bring new subscribers” to this increasingly popular summer festival.

[] Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney continually think up ways to expand audiences for those July organ recitals at their Cedarn Point home (where 80 delighted attendees assembled last year). Peter promises they’ll find room for even more patrons during this summer’s series, featuring “stellar organists.”

[] Former Lake Conewago lifeguard Jack Schropp just published “UNBEATABLE: Recreate Your Life Using the Secrets of a Navy SEAL,” available through,, and other booksellers. Jack, who grew up alongside the lake, was also a 1950s actor and usher at the Playhouse.

[] Campmeeting resident Vickie Kracke (964-3589) offers housekeeping, cooking and transportation services for seniors wishing to remain in their homes. Having lived here 18 years, she “realized the turmoil some people experience.” Vicki’s sense of the community’s spirit inspired her service’s name, “Your Good Neighbor.”

[] Historian Jack Bitner of 24 Muhlenberg Ave. says he still has a few copies of “Mount Gretna: A Coleman Legacy,” published in 1990. Although the book is no longer in stores, Jack says he prefers personally meeting people who buy it. The cost: $20.

[] They’re getting an early start for next fall’s nursery school sessions in Mount Gretna. Enrollment is already underway, says Carol Mather. “We have classes for three- and four-year-olds. It’s great fun,” she says. Carol invites parents and grandparents to call her (964-2208).

[] French provincial linen importer John Mitchell expects to open his Design Center “when the weather gets nice.” He hopes a gourmet food stand and other vendors will join his imported fabric business ( “We’re open for ideas,” he says. Realtor Emi Snavely handles rentals.

[] Mount Gretna artists appear in Elizabethtown’s Lynden Gallery Figurative Invitational (See The Feb. 14-Mar. 6 exhibit includes works by art professor Lou Schellenberg, who divides her time between Pennsylvania and Camden, Maine, and Swedish-born Eva Bender, a former Mount Gretna Art Show award winner.

[] Gretna Theater selected Ingenuity Warehouse of Lemoyne to coordinate its advertising. Officials interviewed several ad agencies. “Frankly, they were all good,” says Keith Volker. “But we favored Ingenuity’s approach: do research, find our target audiences, understand what we’re doing before stepping out and doing it.”

[] Several readers wondered if bird-watching groups might thrive in the Mount Gretna area. Expert birder Larry Coble invites others to join him in the Tri-County Conewago Creek Association, a preservationist group that charts bird sightings locally. For meeting times and locations, see

[] Electrical outages won’t affect entry to the post office, despite the electronic lock installed there last week. The door opens automatically if the power fails, says postmaster Steve Strickler, so patrons can’t get locked in or out. New entry hours: 5:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

[] Nicole Roberts says neither snow, sleet nor rain will slow planning for one of her favorite events, the Halloween Parade. Nicole’s dad, Andy Roberts, and Scott Galbraith need musicians for a Halloween Band. “There’ll be a few practices,” Nicole promises. Peggy Seibert (964-2029) has details.

[] Mount Gretna art show co-founder Reed Dixon, known for his mixed-media experimentations, nontraditional style and color pallet, and unusual subject matter has a new website: He also just opened a new figurative show at Lancaster Galleries, 34 N. Water Street (

[] The Public Works Director flinched when fellow cyclists presented a birthday gift certificate from Fresh Flesh. Bill Care then accepted the “bicycle harem’s” (including wife Kay) ”double-dog-dare-you” challenge and got his ear pierced, fulfilling their (maybe his?) fantasies. “You gotta stay young,” he says, smiling.

[] Lancaster motorists traveling to Mount Gretna often prefer North Colebrook Road as an alternative to Rte. 72 and applaud the new two-lane bridge added last year, says Rapho Township manager Nancy Halliwell. “It gets more traffic than Pinch Road,” she says.

[] Performance engagements keep growing for Mount Gretna’s Wing & A Prayer choral praise group. Offering “music for the spirit,” they appear at hospitals, retirement homes, churches and similar locations throughout Central Pennsylvania. They’ll be at the Community Picnic July 17. Details: e-mail Cheryl Burke,

[] Robert M. Sims, who lives just over the mountaintop in Manheim, has started a new service to look after homes and cottages of Mount Gretna’s absentee property owners. For details, e-mail: Tel. (717) 665-7348 or 575-2375.

[] Lebanon native Lowell Lanshe (, who enjoyed Mount Gretna as a youngster, wants to rent a five-bedroom cottage this August. He moved away more than 30 years ago and delights in opportunities to return each summer.

[] Robert Peck wonders if someone might be planning to sell their Campmeeting cottage. The Harrisburg resident seeks one his family might use as a retreat and for occasional rentals. His e-mail address:


2 Full-time employees at West Cornwall Township, the office that looks after Mount Gretna from Pinch Road eastward. Carol McLaughlin, a former Campmeeting resident, is the secretary, treasurer and office manager. George Dundore is road foreman. They call on five part-timers as needed.

3 Events that “cause heartburn” for Met Ed linemen: Ice storms. Heavy, wet, “packing” snow (especially the year’s first snow before leaves are off the trees.) And high wind. All three conditions can bring down trees across power lines leading to Mount Gretna.

15 Deer struck by cars and trucks between Oct. 1-Jan. 31, as reflected in calls to Cornwall Borough police.

75 Tons of salt spread by Mount Gretna borough crews so far this season. They have 100 tons left. “Ready for more snow? I was born ready,” says the swashbuckling Bill Care.

180 Hours Mount Gretna firefighters devoted last year to specialized training, including vehicle rescue certification (involving simulated four-car accidents with real “victims”) that required three entire weekends

186 Calls Mount Gretna’s volunteer firefighters responded to last year.

195 Bird species identified in and around Mount Gretna in the Conewago Creek Watershed by the Tri-County Conewago Creek Association. (They include pileated woodpeckers, spotted 15 years ago by occasional visitor Cindy Sheaffer of Arizona.) Tri-County volunteers hope to soon include a full species listing at

18,000 Gallons of water used in the Campmeeting during a typical winter’s day. The year ‘round average: 26,000 gallons a day. During art show weekend, daily use jumps to about 50,000 gallons.

100,054 Miles that Cornwall Borough police cars traveled last year in serving Mount Gretna, West Cornwall Twp. and Cornwall.


Maybe we should add 3,854 to the “Numbers” section above. That’s the number of words in this issue, one of our longest. Since we began this newsletter as a pleasurable hobby three years ago, we’ve written a little over 90,000 words about happenings in Mount Gretna, one of our favorite topics. That may be a bit much, and we apologize for any unintended verbosity. In future, we’ll strive for brevity. But with so much going on, with so many people devoted, as Max Hunsicker says, to improving the quality of life here, it’s hard to overlook all that's good.

To those who give so much, our appreciation. There may indeed be better places, with better folks, on the planet. But we don’t know of any.

Our thanks to those who kindly circulate copies of this newsletter to friends and relatives around the world, especially those without e-mail. Our thanks to those who take the time to write, often telling us how they happened upon our newsletter, where they now live, and what they most enjoy about Mount Gretna. Our thanks to those who report events, observations and newsworthy notices to share with others. One and all, they are part of what makes Mount Gretna more than a place. As Marlin Seiders said, “it’s a spirit.”

With kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave.

P.S. Previous issues of this newsletter appear on the Web at

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A Special Note to Our Website Readers: Before preparing each newsletter, we usually 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: Thursday, February 05, 2004 8:05 AM
Subject: Coming Up: Another Edition of Mt. Gretna's E-Mail Newsletter (Pls. Forward)

A winter like no other. If not the coldest on record, then at least colder than most Mount Gretnans can, or care to, remember. Here at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 5th, the website signals an almost balmy 24 degrees but with still another winter storm watch for later today. And that thaw which started to creep in yesterday on rays glistening through ice-covered limbs along the mountaintop likely won’t take hold for yet another few weeks.

Meanwhile, four-foot-long icicles hovering under rooftops, plunging temperatures on back porch thermometers, and other burr-evoking scenes at amplify year-rounders’ advisories for fortunate neighbors who’ve escaped to sunnier climes: “Stay put, at least until April.”

Yet, throughout Mount Gretna, only the ground remains frozen. Plans and planners crackle with excitement about this summer's arts schedule. We'll have a report on these and other happenings in another edition of Mount Gretna’s e-mail newsletter, coming up soon. Gather your news, notes and curiosities about all things great and Gretnan, then pass them along to us at We’ll sort, review, and report them to readers around the globe who share an interest in, and affection for, this bustling community that, even in the coldest of winters, never quite slips into hibernation.

No, not ALL the news fit to print. But news you’ll probably not find anywhere else: everything from reports on Cathartes aura (the scientific name for Turkey Vultures) to sightings of pileated woodpeckers, as well as the creative contributions of that splendid assortment of artists, accountants, artisans, bakers, musicians, authors, restaurateurs, teachers, doctors, designers and candlestick makers who dwell among us, adding spirit, sparkle, and zest to all our lives.

As always, we appreciate your thoughtfulness in forwarding the newsletter to friends and relatives around the world, and in printing copies for neighbors who don’t yet have e-mail. (Their numbers diminish as our circulation grows. Requests arrive every month from alert, interested, and intellectually-plugged-in readers, some now in their 80s and 90s, who have recently added e-mail to their ever-growing list of masteries.)

So now, while it’s still fresh in your mind, send news you’d like to share with others to Your timely, thoughtful contributions help perpetuate a century-old tradition of volunteer vitality that is, we surmise, uniquely Mount Gretnan.

With kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue

P.S. A reminder that, thanks to the folks at Mount Gretna Inn, you'll find back issues of our newsletter on the Web at