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Mt. Gretna E-mail Newsletter No. 38 July 24, 2004

Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 38 July 24, 2004


Looking back over the archives of this newsletter, we find that those written about this time of year are a bit more relaxed. Maybe even a tad lazy. Perhaps that’s because, in a sense, Mount Gretna’s that way, too.

Ironic, we suppose, since summer is surely Mount Gretna’s busiest season: More activities are afoot, catalogued in the Arts Council’s chock-full calendar of events you can also pick up on the Web ( Friends gather on porches, shunning TV and enjoying quiet conversations late into the night. Overnight guests arrive, some discovering Mount Gretna and forming attachments often destined to last a lifetime. And small clusters of visitors stroll along the streets, holding hands and savoring the fruits of Robert Coleman’s grand dream.

Days and nights of Mount Gretna in midsummer blend into a curious, gentle and delightful tumult. Yet nobody seems rushed. Harried is a word nobody ever utters. And stress seems even more remote than the 2021 return of Brood X cicadas.

What Mount Gretna becomes in this season, perhaps more than any other, is a haven, a place where generations have sought quiet refuge from a sometimes calamitous world. As the late Bob Brown --- seemingly always on the verge of an impish grin --- liked to ask passersby from a favored perch on his Brown Avenue porch, “Is this Heaven or Hollywood?”

Whatever it is, it’s special. But just so no one nods off oblivious to the sights, sounds and scenes currently shaping life amongst us, we offer some random notes intended to help keep us all up to date:


Readers in other parts of the country who share our affection for Mount Gretna will be glad to know the town escaped damage from the July 14 tornado that devastated our Campbelltown neighbors. Although the skies turned black, trees surrendered their weaker branches, and electrical current stopped flowing for about 12 hours, this community suffered no lasting damage. Many here are now contributing to widespread support efforts for those who lost their homes. But that’s not to say all Mount Gretnans escaped untouched.

Scott Cooling, a borough maintenance crew staffer who quietly earns the respect of co-workers and residents alike, was driving home in his jeep shortly after 3:00 p.m. when the storm hit, dropping a huge overhead limb onto his jeep and sending Scott to Lancaster General Hospital’s trauma unit for two days. Feeling better now, he resumed light duties here on Thursday, deeply appreciative for the many cards, calls and other expressions of concern he received from Mount Gretna residents.

Grace Garrett, who lives on Lebanon Ave., was alone at her daughter’s house in Campbelltown when the storm hit. Glass shattered, rafters rattled, and Grace --- 89 years old and weighing less than 80 pounds --- fought with single-minded determination to keep a door from blowing open so her daughter’s two golden retrievers couldn’t get out. All the while, swirling winds were destroying homes nearby. Why not duck into the basement? “I was trying to take care of those dogs. But I prayed and I knew the Lord would take care of me, and that was that. You can laugh, but it worked,” she says. Unfazed, Grace is back as usual at Le Sorelle Porch & Pantry Café, greeting patrons as the weekend hostess.


Coming up Aug. 7: Mount Gretna’s tour of homes and cottages. This marks the 20th anniversary for this tour --- one of the most popular in central Pennsylvania. For a preview of the 10 stops that will be on this year’s tour, see:

The tour is part of what will be yet another busy summer weekend. Besides the walking tour on Aug. 7, there’ll be a special Saturday morning art exhibit at the Hall of Philosophy, matinee and evening performances of “The Robber Bridegroom” at the Playhouse, and an election of Campmeeting officers at 4:00 p.m. The next day, that big Exterra Off-Road Triathlon kicks off at 8:30 a.m., an event expected to attract several hundred participants and spectators --- part of a national competition leading to the international finals this fall in Hawaii. And even as contestants swim, ride and run through the surrounding hills, there’ll be the usual 10:00 a.m. Sunday services in both the Tabernacle and Playhouse. All that followed by a 3:30 p.m. Celtic harp and soprano performance at Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy, and by simultaneous 7:30 p.m. concerts in the Playhouse (Manhattan Brass Quintet) and Tabernacle (Mass Choir Concert).

Did someone say “lazy summer”?


Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a different dining experience, Farmer’s Hope Inn proprietors Tim and Terri Brown will donate a portion of their Tuesday night proceeds to Mount Gretna’s fire company. Just mention that you’re from Mount Gretna, and they’ll contribute 10 percent of your bill to our fire company. “We want to be part of the community,” says Terri, who moved from Lititz with her husband to renovate the 250-year-old inn that once served as a stagecoach stop.
Located along Route 72 just north of the Turnpike, the inn operates as a restaurant, tavern and B&B. Terri promises “great food (including steaks, crab cakes, and chicken), great service, and a warm, inviting atmosphere.” Call 717-664-4673 or 273-4500. And, when you go on a Tuesday night, be sure to mention that you appreciate their donating 10 percent of the tab to Mount Gretna’s fire company.


You can also catch up on news about plans for a historical society, and maybe a museum someday, through an insightful article by Patriot News writer (and Mount Gretna resident) Tom Bowman at

Those excited about the prospects of forming the society are eager to get a contest underway for a new logo. They hope to capture a design symbolizing “the historical heritage and ideals of life in the area” and invite entries in a competition that’s open to all --- even folks living in other places throughout the world but sharing a fondness for Mount Gretna. The deadline (for camera-ready artwork or computer graphics) is August 20, and planners hope to display entries at the Art Show (Aug. 21-22). For full contest details, drop us a note at


Finally, a look at inquiries from readers --- regular subscribers plus those who’ve just recently discovered Mount Gretna’s Newsletter on the Web:

Q. Where can I get a copy of that videotaped program on Mount Gretna?

A. “Golden Days in Mount Gretna,” a 30-minute minidocumentary which has appeared on PBS, is available in VHS or CD ($20) or DVD ($40) formats directly from the producer, who usually spends a week or so here each August. To order, add $3 for USA shipments, $6 elsewhere, and send to Jim Forney, 106 Elm Lane, Sewickley, PA 15143.

Q. “Where can I find out more about Ann Hark? Her book ‘Blue Hills and Shoo-Fly Pie’ is one of my favorites. I’ve read it four times. After I suffered a crippling injury several years ago, it was just the tonic I needed to lift me out of a depression.”

A. Ann Hark, who once owned a cottage here and whose father was the Pennsylvania Chautauqua’s first chancellor, wrote articles for “Ladies Home Journal” magazine and several books. “Hex Marks the Spot” is her best-known work. The Chautauqua’s Friday night series devoted a program to her July 9. Dr. Mary Alice Wheeler of Bloomsburg University is one of the leading Ann Hark authorities. So is Tom Meredith, P. O. Box 625, Mount Gretna, PA 17064, who welcomes questions about Ms. Hark’s life and work.

Q. Are copies of Jack Bitner’s 1990 volume “Mount Gretna: A Coleman Legacy” still available?

A. Jack has several copies left ($20 each, plus postage), and he delights in talking with people who share his interest in the town’s history. Orders accepted by phone (717-964-3058) and mail (P. O. Box 301, Mount Gretna, PA 17064). Or, if you’re walking by 24 Muhlenberg Ave. and he happens to be home, the author himself will likely welcome you onto his porch for an enjoyable chat and memorable insights into Mount Gretna’s heritage.


An item we ran in our last newsletter about the Tabernacle, built in 1899 at a cost of $1,500, prompted us to consult one of those computerized inflation calculators on the Internet. Using inflation-adjusted dollars, we wondered, what would it cost to build the Tabernacle today? According to the computer, $1,500 in 1899 would be the equivalent of just a little over $31,000 today. But does anyone truly think we could recreate the Tabernacle for $31,000?
That’s why people like Campmeeting supervisor Merv Lentz, borough chief Bill Care and all those who serve on the various boards that run things here, fill a role in safeguarding Mount Gretna’s physical treasures that earns the gratitude of us all. And that, come to think of it, is just one more reason why, when it comes to expressing gratitude, nobody deserves our thanks more than the volunteers at Mount Gretna’s fire company. Preserving history and saving lives: a more worthy calling is hard to imagine.

A reminder that those discovering this letter can find back issues on the Web at and colorful glimpses of Mount Gretna life at And, answering another question that readers sometimes ask: The Mount Gretna Newsletter e-mail list is neither sold, rented, leased, traded, swapped, exchanged or bartered. That’s partly because we don’t like to receive junk mail. We assume you don’t either. If you’d like to be notified when new editions are published, just drop us a note at We’ll be pleased to add your name to the growing list of people around the world who regularly receive this newsletter.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue