Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter

"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
Newsletter Home
Join Our Mailing List
Email: The Mt. Gretna Newsletter

Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 35, April 23, 2004


At first, it was merely a public notice posted along Mine Road. Then it blossomed into a public hearing. Now, it appears, cellular communications in Mount Gretna have just received --- if not a clear green light --- greased wheels, at least, on the rocky road to reality.

South Annville officials this week approved a 190-ft. cell tower. When all the hurdles have been jumped, Verizon will for the first time begin providing cell phone service to Mount Gretna --- a goal that has eluded wireless engineers and frustrated wireless customers for nearly a decade.

Verizon officials can’t say, exactly, when their tower might go up. Negotiations still must be completed and regulatory approvals granted. “We’d love to have all the approvals go our way and put the site into service in 2005,” said spokesperson Megan Shames. “But it’s impossible to nail down exact timing.”

Nevertheless, she says Verizon network officials put Mount Gretna “high on the priority list.” One reason: the tower will be more than a mere convenience. Besides bringing an extra margin of safety for growing numbers of hikers, cyclists and horseback riders now converging on Mount Gretna’s trails and woodlands, it will serve an even more critical role.

Lebanon County will use the tower to mount three emergency broadcast antennas. That not only will bring “a 100-percent improvement in our fire and police communications,” says South Annville police chief Ben Sutcliffe, “but it will also save Lebanon taxpayers $160,000 we’d have spent to build a tower on our own.”

When it’s finally built, Verizon’s tower won’t be the first in the vicinity of the Heisey family’s 64-acre Mine Road tract. GPU uses a nearby site for radio links from an 80-ft. tower erected in 1941. The location seems ideal for electronically blanketing the valley between Governor Dick Hill and Television Hill --- a “dead” area that has confounded cell phone engineers and frustrated cell phone users for years.

The first issue of this newsletter, in fact, quoted a Delaware Valley Communications engineer, “I don’t see any way that you’re going to get cellular coverage in Mount Gretna.”

Strictly speaking, of course, that’s never been completely true. As Dale Grundon lamented in our Jan. 11, 2001 issue, “I can use my cell phone occasionally. On some days. If I’m standing on the right spot. And if I don’t move.”

This week’s announcement means that Dale (and Mount Gretna’s other 1,500 or so citizens) will --- sometime in the near future --- no longer have to stand still. Neither will the historians recording Mount Gretna’s gentle, sometimes understandably reluctant, trudge into the modern world.


It’ll likely be the liveliest seasonal start in Mount Gretna history.

May 29th is shaping up as one of the busiest Saturdays we’ll see all year long. Not only will summer residents roll in, open their cottages, and shake off the dust of winter. There’ll also be a stream of visitors from out of town. Organizers of Mount Gretna’s “first annual” mini-triathlon hope to attract some 300 entrants in a race that will both boost research into a crippling disease and introduce Mount Gretna to growing numbers of outdoor recreational enthusiasts.

And a combined Chautauqua-Campmeeting porch sale, perhaps with other neighborhoods joining in, likely will attract hundreds more. Then there’s the official opening of Mount Gretna Lake. And topping everything off, the Arts Council’s summer premiere --- that talk-of-the-town gala traditionally signaling the season’s official start.

Even before it gets underway, this summer glitters with promise. A sound system, engineered by world-renowned Clair Brothers Audio, is going in at the Playhouse. Cicada Festival planners have just announced their 10th anniversary lineup. Folks at both Gretna Music and Gretna Theater are brimming with excitement about their seasons. And the gift shop, sporting in a 1940s-early ‘50s retro motif, will introduce another original T-shirt design featuring a Mount Gretna rocker --- symbol of all that’s right with the world.

What’s also right is a freshly energized community spirit. For the first time, Chautauqua and Campmeeting neighbors are sponsoring a porch sale that traverses boundaries and broadly extends benefits. Among the beneficiaries --- besides residents disposing of unwanted congeries --- is the Chautauqua Foundation (for those wishing to donate some or all of their proceeds). Also benefiting: the Campmeeting’s Heritage Festival, Mount Gretna United Methodist Church, and the Lebanon Humane Society (profiting from a “Take What You Want, Pay What You Want” book sale on the Library porch). All this and barbequed chicken with baked potatoes, too --- $5 please --- proceeds going to good causes.

[SPECIAL NOTE: Participating porch sale residents wishing to list their locations in a GuideMap should call 964-1830 by May 22. Those choosing to donate items to the Foundation may bring them to the Chautauqua Drive sales site May 29 by 7:30 a.m. Porch sales officially start at 8:00 a.m.]

Meanwhile, those not hunting bargains will be hunting for the finish line in Mount Gretna’s first mini-triathlon.

Chris Kaag, a 27-year-old who six years ago came down with a degenerative nerve disease, inspired the endurance race. The former Marine, with family ties in Lititz and Reading, loves Mount Gretna. Last fall, he hit on the idea of sponsoring a “fun event" here to benefit the Myelin Project, whose researchers hope to unravel the mysteries of neurodegenerative disorders. Now completing marketing and management studies at Penn State’s Berks campus, Chris spearheaded the fundraising effort with help from corporate sponsors like Pfizer and Lamar Advertising, which donated $13,000 in billboard space.

The mini-triathlon begins at 9:30 a.m. and will end around 1:00 p.m., he says. “We’ll see how it goes. Maybe it’ll become an annual event. Mount Gretna is a great area. I hope that the response from the people there will be positive, and they won’t mind me intruding on their space too much.”

People, indeed, are what motivate Chris, now dependent on two canes and, for longer distances, a wheelchair. “I like to be around people. And if you’re miserable and depressed, people don’t respond. I try to keep an open mind and a positive outlook. Things could be a lot worse than they are.” He invites e-mail contact at Also see

Crowning the day at 4:00 p.m. will be the 2004 Summer Premiere --- perennially one of the season’s highlights with gatherings of old friends, summer residents returning to greet year-‘rounders, and everybody enveloped in a swirl of objets d’art for the auction that annually underwrites the Arts Council’s Summer Calendar. This year’s calendar cover features Susan Wentzel’s watercolor of Mount Gretna Park, circa 1900.

Coordinators Janice Hall Balmer and sister Leslie Hall Buchanan invite newcomers and old timers alike to join in the live and silent auctions, sample appetizers, and discover what’s ahead for this summer’s music, theater and other arts programs. The calendar cover painting, and a Dale Grundon original stained glass design, usually rank among the auction’s most sought-after items. Tickets, at $15, will be available at the door to Chautauqua’s Community Building. Janice (964-3142 or also invites others to help out. She’ll especially appreciate food donations (“desserts, please”).

Let the season begin!


As a topic, it’s not exactly making the rounds of Mount Gretna’s dinner parties, but a few folks now wonder why you seldom see chipmunks in the forests around here any more.

Have chipmunks vanished altogether? Maybe not, but their numbers are surely down. They and other critters have fallen on hard times. At least that’s a possibility raised by certified forester Barry Rose. He’ll soon swing into action with a plan to nurse Governor Dick Park back to health.

Although his studies won’t be complete until Thanksgiving, Barry suspects the forest --- like many these days --- isn’t nearly as healthy as most people think. “Wildlife diversity depends on habitat diversity,” he says. Governor Dick’s plants, vines and trees are neither diverse nor part of what Mother Nature originally intended.

The biggest problem: too many deer. The underlying cause: we humans.

A 1986 Penn State forestry graduate, Barry says deer have devoured most of the native plants on Governor Dick’s 1,100 acres. Healthy forests that size can support about 20 to 35 deer. He estimates Governor Dick’s deer population at more than 100.

Vegetation now thriving there are alien plants that deer can’t eat --- brought by seeds birds and animals scoop from lawns and gardens. Alien plants upset nature’s balance, he says, choking off groundcover needed to support natural plants and wildlife --- including chipmunks.

Restoring the forest’s balance will be neither easy nor quick. Solutions include temporary fences to shield 40-square-acre areas, keeping deer out and allowing natural plants to mature. It’s the first step in a solution requiring decades --- “a time span most people are unaccustomed to thinking about,” he acknowledges.

Yet long-term thinking is exactly what’s needed. “It’s impossible to do nothing and expect forests will carry on as they always have,” says Barry. As his website suggests, quoting Plato, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”


Gil Feinberg proffers an idea that --- given Mount Gretna’s cultural heritage --- seems, as the British would say, “spot on.”

What he proposes is Mount Gretna’s first “Socrates Café,” once-a-month gatherings on somebody’s front porch to join in shared, facilitator-led dialogs about “basic questions that have intrigued human beings over the ages.” Such inquiries, he suggests, might include “What is courage?” “Is morality inherent in human nature?” And “Is knowledge of our own mortality a blessing or a curse?”

Gil, an attorney and owner of the cottage at 108 Harvard Ave., proposes his own front porch for the first gathering Saturday, June 5 at 1:00 p.m. He expects the sessions will last about an hour and a half. And he hopes others will offer their porches for later meetings, now scheduled on the first Saturday of each month throughout the summer.

He also invites others to contact him by e-mail ( suggesting topics, offering porches, and tossing in ideas of their own. Once discussions for the first gathering are set, he’ll e-mail the topics to those wishing to join in.


Despite TV, telecommunications and tapping on computer keyboards, Mount Gretnans find those Tuesday morning book reviews a popular summer diversion. Planners hope to squeeze in a few extra seats at Chautauqua’s community building to hear, starting at 9:45 a.m.:

June 29: “The Prism and the Pendulum” by Robert Crease (Kathleen Kolbet, reviewer).
July 6: “Goya,” by Robert Hughes (Scott Schweigert, reviewer)
July 13: "Girl With a Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier (Kevin Pry, reviewer)
July 20: “A Noble Radiance" by Donna Leon (Diane Iglesias, reviewer)
July 27: "Hegemony or Survival" by Noam Chomsky (Paul Heise, reviewer)
Aug. 3: "Brunelleschi's Dome" by Ross King (John Heffner, reviewer)
Aug. 10: "Isaac Newton" by James Gliek (Luke Huggins, reviewer)
Aug. 17: "Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History" by Cati Marton (Jean-Paul Benowitz, reviewer)
Aug. 24: "Monday's Warriors" by Maurice Chadbolt (Gary Grieve-Carlson, reviewer)
Aug. 31: "Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball" by Scott Simon (Howard Applegate, reviewer)

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Mount Gretnans will add touches of spring May 8 as those “Second Saturday” gatherings get underway (at the traffic island just outside the Playhouse) at 11:00 a.m. Sue Loehr (273-6674 or 964-2225) promises volunteers for these light gardening spruce-up sessions, “we’ll be done by noon.”

[] Steak and shrimp kabobs kick off the season tonight (April 23) at Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry Café’s “Think Spring” dinner. The reservations-only event is one of several the Lamont sisters plan this year. For details, see

[] Those colorful afghans now have become one of the fire department’s most popular fundraisers. Inspired by old postcards and historic photos, Sue Sutcliffe and other volunteers designed the 51” x 66” coverlets --- now available at Mount Gretna Computing (964-1106). See

[] Volunteers will launch tomorrow (April 24) the first of this year’s Lebanon Valley trail maintenance days. Following the next one (May 22), are workdays on the last Saturdays in June, September and October. The three-hour sessions start at 9:00 a.m. at the Colebrook trail head.

[] The Cicada Festival’s 10th anniversary year will feature Cathi Chemi, Steve Courtney, the U.S. Army Chorus, a Nashville contemporary group, organist Rudy Lucente, and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. Also scheduled: a film festival and plays by Mount Gretna playwrights.

[] Joe Macsisak and Tom Rowe hope this year’s T-shirt, featuring another “rocker icon,” will approach the all-time popularity of their design for 2002 --- when buyers snapped up 400 shirts displaying rockers and proclaiming, “Mount Gretna --- The Way Life Ought to Be.”

[] Those ubiquitous oval, Euro-style bumper stickers (showing a community’s two- or three-letter initials) signal yet another measure of growing pride in America’s small towns. Reporting on the trend, a Rochester, N.Y. newspaper recently cited Mount Gretna’s “MTG” sticker.

[] Organ recitals begin July 1 at the home of Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney. Among those appearing in the popular Thursday evening series will be organists from Wanamakers, Harrisburg’s St. Patricks Cathedral, York’s Trinity Church of Christ and the Allen Organ Company. For details: 964-3856.

[] United Methodist Church’s choral group plans a contemporary music service at the Tabernacle Aug. 1. Coordinator Russ Rurke (964-1150) says the Wing and a Prayer singers will also appear this year at Cornwall Manor, The Hill Farm Estate, York Rite Masons and the Campmeeting Picnic.

[] Mount Gretna Lake’s water levels, which vary with spring rainfall and creek flows, begin returning to normal this weekend. Officials drain the lake each spring to repair ice damage to piers and other structures. Everything will be ready for the May 29 opening, they promise.

[] Works by Mount Gretna photographer Madelaine Gray and artists Eva Bender, Shelby Applegate and Barbara Acker will appear at Lebanon Valley College’s 33rd annual juried art exhibition, April 23-May 9. The show opens tonight (April 23) with a reception and awards ceremony at 5:00 p.m.

[] “USA Today” reports the impending arrival this summer of “humungous mutant cicadas.” That item naturally caught the eye of playwright Eton Churchill, who annually contributes a play to the Cicada Festival. Says professor Churchill, “Apparently, these things are big enough to eat your sneakers.”

[] “The Eyes Have It,” Eaton’s latest play, is one of seven selected from 89 entries in the 23d annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival. The work received a stage reading here last summer and begins a month-long run at Baltimore’s Spotlighters Theatre Aug. 6.

[] Governor Rendell named Kathy Snavely one of Pennsylvania’s “best 50 women in business.” Ceremonies next month will honor the role of 210,000 women-owned firms in creating jobs and building communities. Kathy’s Lightkeeper Consulting aids small businesses in planning and marketing. See

[] Brush pickups begin in Mount Gretna borough April 26, with the first leaf collections scheduled May 3. Crews will make a second leaf sweep June 1 followed by another brush pickup June 7.

[] Mount Gretna Art Show director Linda Bell encourages people visiting other shows around the country to pass along names and addresses of artists whose works they admire. She’ll add them to the list of artists annually invited to submit (by April 1) entries for judging.

[] Cornwall police department’s yard sale May 15 will benefit this year’s Christmas Adopt-a-Family. Shirley Trimmer (274-2071) rates Mount Gretnans among the world’s most generous people and gladly picks up donated items. Money raised has helped buy everything from kerosene to children’s toys for needy families.

[] Block shooters aim for prizes, hot dogs and Alice McKeone’s ham and bean soup May 1, in the first of this year’s matches. Target shooting starts at Noon. The fun begins even before. And benefits --- to the fire company --- linger all year long.

[] Yoga instruction begins June 14 at the Heights community building. Pam Willeman (964-3193) leads the Monday evening classes, which continue through Aug. 9. She’s also begun offering Thai massage combining acupressure, reflexology, passive yoga therapy and stretching to release tension, increase flexibility and improve circulation.

[] Gretna Music offers arts management internships this summer. Candidates chosen will gain experience in customer service, public relations, promotions, corporate and community relations, artist relations, and marketing. Carl Kane (361-1508) has details.

[] Tennis competition opens June 12-18 with the Mount Gretna Men’s Club 29th annual Open Women’s Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles Har Tru Tournament. Contact Dan Moyer, tournament director: e-mail: or 964-22036

[] Gretna Music plans a “coffee cantata” June 26, with music of Bach performed at The East Indies Coffee & Tea Company, where designers will transform the setting to an 18th century period experience --- with wine, food, fresh coffee, and baroque orchestra performances. Details: 361-1508.

[] Resurfacing operations will begin in the Timber Hills area this summer, probably sometime in June, says South Londonderry Township manager Rose Mary Kays. Officials expect to soon seek bids for repairs to Valley, Hillcrest and Oak roads.

[] Scott Zellers thinks this year’s 7th annual Mount Gretna car show could be the best. The June 19 exhibit, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., envelops the parking lot of the fire company, which benefits from show proceeds. Questions? Call Scott (964-3233).

[] Bob Sims’ service for absentee cottage owners ( came in handy recently. Bob opened a cottage and helped get a broken pipe fixed, allowing a disabled owner --- in a nursing home since Dec. 22 --- to enjoy his Easter family reunion in Mount Gretna.

[] Cindy Eby encourages cottage owners seeking a year-‘round renter to contact her at 665-4088 or e-mail She’s “single with no pets except for a cockatiel” and would love to volunteer at the Playhouse this summer.


1.72 Square miles in Governor Dick Park’s 1,100 acres. “Browsing pressure” a forest that size can withstand: 20 to 35 deer. Estimated deer population at Governor Dick: “well over 100.”

3 New fire hydrants now operating in Mount Gretna borough. One is a replacement unit, on Lafayette Ave. Others, along Route 117 and at the corner of Lehigh and Pennsylvania avenues, bring added fire protection.

25 Miles per hour averaged by cyclist (and borough superintendent) Bill Care in a 25-mile race in Maryland last weekend. Bill finished 18th among 85 competitors, all age 50 and above.

30 Minutes required for those “Second Saturdays” gardening and spruce-up sessions held each month. The first one begins May 8 (11:00 a.m., at the island just outside the Playhouse). Each year, Sue Loehr’s happy volunteers add sparkling touches, winning appreciative compliments from visitors and residents alike. If you can’t come then but can help another time, Sue welcomes your call (work, 273-6674, or home, 964-2225).

41 Pieces of original art, including his latest paintings, shown at, website of Mount Gretna art show co-founder Reed Dixon. At, the works of fellow co-founder Bruce Johnson appear. Biographies at both sites mention the Mount Gretna art show.

66 to 90 Percent of applicants dropping out of the Navy’s underwater demolition team training, says Jack Schropp, the former Mount Gretnan who learned to swim in Lake Conewago (see: Reviewers say his new nonfiction book, “Unbeatable: Recreate Your Life As Extraordinary Using Secrets of a Navy SEAL,” gives "practical, useful and motivating ideas you can put to work in your life immediately.” The author says that “mastering the art of failing is in shortening the recovery time you need to wallow before attempting your goal again.” He hopes to return for a visit here July 4.

114 Years since Mount Gretna workmen built the military range office, where army officers tallied marksmanship scores and statistics. In the 1940s, the 1,060-square-foot structure was moved to Fort Indiantown Gap. Built in the shape of a cross, the Victorian building now is moving again --- to become part of the Gap’s Pennsylvania National Guard’s Military Museum.

25,000 Tourists visiting Adel, Ga., annually to view turkey vultures. With superior intelligence and the ability to detect odors in parts per trillion, the vultures (whose digestive system scientists find utterly fascinating) help get rid of viruses and bacteria spread by dead animals. Wilbur and Orville Wright studied the birds’ wingtips for clues to steering and maintaining flight levels, according to an Associated Press article sent by Judie Attwood Gehman.
Meanwhile, Dick and Natalie Smith discovered on a cruise along South America’s northwestern coast last month that Chileans scoop guano from their large turkey vulture flock and sell it as fertilizer.
(Could we be missing money-making opportunities? Vulture viewing as a fall fund-raiser? Grow Greener Gardens with Guano? Where are those marketing guys when you need 'em?)


The latest Pew survey shows 63 percent of American adults now use the Internet, and more than half go online every day. Mount Gretnans, our experience suggests, rank well above those averages. Within hours after we dispatch this newsletter, our mailbox starts filling up with appreciative notes from thoughtful readers around the world, and with questions, suggestions, and sparkling ideas that make personalized electronic journalism such a rewarding pastime --- especially in this lively, creative, and utterly fascinating community.

To one and all, our heartfelt thanks. Please continue to provide printed copies of this newsletter to neighbors not yet online, and forward electronic copies to friends and relatives who share your enthusiasm for all things great, small, and Gretnan.

With kindest regards,

Roger Groce
213 Stevens Avenue

P.S. A reminder that previous issues of this newsletter appear on the web, thanks to the Mount Gretna Inn, at You’ll also find a colorful array of fresh Mount Gretna scenes --- including photos of the third (added last week) wood sculpture by 1996 national woodcarving champion Dennis Beach --- at

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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: Wednesday, April 14, 2004 12:27 AM
Subject: Send News! It's Time for Another Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter

Recently, someone told us they couldn’t imagine a monthly newsletter devoted exclusively to a place as small as Mount Gretna. “What on earth could you find to write about all year long?” they wondered.

Then they checked our website --- all the back issues on display, from winter as well as summer months --- and were stunned. “So much goes on there,” said they, utterly surprised.

Stunning, of course, isn’t our purpose. Ours is a much more modest goal --- reporting to, keeping informed, and occasionally amusing --- our growing band of readers around the globe. And while it’s not The New York Times or Barron’s, we guarantee you’ll find news in the next edition of Mount Gretna’s E-Mail Newsletter that’s simply not available anywhere else.

So this is to remind you to send in your news, notes and literary nostrums. We delight in wrapping them up and sending them out to people near and far who share an interest in, familial attachment to, or fondness for Mount Gretna.

Meanwhile, some reminders about stirrings hereabouts that herald the coming of a new season in a community where, although little seems to change, change nevertheless pulses in a thousand delightful ways:

There is, first, a reminder that frequent Mount Gretna volunteer Diana Lynn is donating proceeds from her hair salon today to Lebanon’s Humane League. Call 964-2062 for an appointment.

Second, that remarkable tree carving (see across from the post office at Cedarn Point will soon be joined by another. Dennis Beach, one of the top three chainsaw carvers in the nation, will return soon to sculpt another carving --- his third --- in Mount Gretna. Others may be in the works, we’re told.

Also, residents anxious to usher in the long-overdue spring are planning to join those gatherings on the second Saturday of each month to bring beauty, order and caring touches to Mount Gretna. The group, called (logically enough) “Second Saturdays,” will invest a half-hour each month starting May 8 in a spruce-up initiative energized by Mount Gretna’s Garden Club.

We’ll have other news to report. . . including plans for a sparkling Summer Premiere --- the season’s official kick-off --- May 29. . . also reports on the Cicada Festival’s fascinating line-up this season, more on plans for the Playhouse, the annual tour of homes and cottages, the 30th annual art show, and a topic that’s now making the rounds at Mount Gretna’s leading dinner parties.

It’s an issue you won’t want to miss. . . or let pass without adding your ideas, comments and news for the good of the order. Send them along to us today at

And thanks once again for your help in spreading the word that this newsletter is available to one and all who delight in Mount Gretna --- and for sharing copies with those who don’t have e-mail but like to get their news personally. . . from friends like you.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue

P.S. A reminder that, thanks to Keith Volker’s Mount Gretna Inn, previous issues of this bulletin appear on the web at