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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 40 September 16, 2004


They don’t exactly roll up the streets here, but this time of year seems especially pleasant for those who remain. A tinge of color starts sifting through the trees. Acorns begin their gentle barrage. Weekend crowds ebb to a few hand-holding couples strolling through the streets and wondering, sometimes aloud, if people really live here. What they notice, along with the rest of us, is the quiet. In Mount Gretna, fall’s approach is a gentle time. A rich reward for summer’s labors. A fitting coda to summer’s fun.

Yet beneath it all stirs the steady pulse that, though less visible, nevertheless assures Mount Gretnans are focused on preparing for the seasons to come.

Work along Mine Road advances on schedule for Verizon’s cell tower, expected to be finished next month and on the air (at the latest) by January. Mariano and Damian Aquino, operators of the new food emporium at the former Mount Gretna deli, hope to soon open for business, restoring a convenient neighborhood source for daily essentials as well as Italian specialties. And PennDOT has just finished the first of what supervisor Dale Good hopes will be several improvements and repairs along Route 117.
Meanwhile, Mount Gretna maintenance chief Bill Care says top items on his agenda now include shoring up the playhouse stage. Center stage, you may recall, was the only thing left standing after the original 102-year-old auditorium collapsed under the weight of heavy snows in 1994. The playhouse stage now needs major repairs, and crews will be setting about that task this winter.

Also needing repairs are the Chautauqua grounds where art show traffic is heaviest. Borough crews now are weighing several choices, including restorative sod work with new, more resilient, varieties of grass. And there’s the usual assortment of street repairs, leaf pickups and waterline updates. Plenty to keep crews busy.

Plenty of activity on the periphery, too. Governor Dick’s nature center opened last week. Cindy McClain, a Colebrook neighbor, is on duty Thursdays through Sundays. She’ll be there this fall, helping give out trail maps and literature, and organizing plans for a fuller schedule when the center reopens next spring. Meanwhile, she invites groups wishing to use the 2,200 sq.-ft. log cabin building for educational programs about nature, conservation and the environment to call her at 964-3808.

And along the rail-trail that transects the heart of town, plans are moving ahead for that $144,000 grant-funded extension that will connect to Timber Road. Organizer John Wengert ( hopes crews can finish construction on the extension next spring. John adds that his group seeks $9,500 in community donations for a kiosk at the extension to help direct the trail’s growing numbers of hikers, horseback riders and cyclists. Negotiations with railway officials have resumed, he says, on a final two-mile link from Zinns Mill Road into Lebanon city. He believes that final phase in the Lebanon Valley’s rail-trail network could be a reality by the end of this year, lengthening the trail, which now stretches from Elizabethtown to Route 72, to 15 miles (see

Quiet time? To be sure, if measured against the tempo of August. But, like the muted heartbeat of a well-conditioned runner, September’s quiet yet steady pulse assures that when spring returns, all will again be ready.


Statistically speaking, this year’s art show was one of the best. Despite two inches of rainfall, 4,200 eager patrons flocked to Mount Gretna on Saturday. Under clear skies the following day, nearly three times as many followed, boosting gate receipts to over $68,000 and helping underwrite essential community projects.

Artistically speaking, the show also scored high marks. Exhibitors from 25 states, Canada and the District of Columbia came, displayed and sold their works. One artist, flying in from Spokane, Wash. just to attend this event, says it’s the best of 28 shows he visits annually. This year’s exhibitors included seven from Mount Gretna: Eva Bender, Lorna Brod, Barbara Fishman, Madeline Gray, Fred Swarr, Les Miller and Larry Lombardo, who was one of 30 Judges Choice award winners (see Joining them as exhibitors were former Mount Gretna residents Fred Albright, Nancy Bishop, Pegge Shannon and Carol Snyder.

And gastronomically speaking, Mount Gretna’s 30th annual show was also a triumph. “I’ve always said that I’d like the food to be as good as the art,” says organizer Linda Bell. Offerings from top-rated area restaurants, some making their first appearance as show vendors, seemed eminently edible and creditable. “I think this year, we succeeded,” says Linda.

Succeeding, of course, is a community-wide enterprise. Each year, about 200 volunteers from every Mount Gretna neighborhood pitch in to help out. Notable, too, are the contributions of former residents who return to help preserve the show and perpetuate its success. Heb and Marion Herr were back. So were Sue and Al Pera, Bruce and Trish Myers, Hannah and Ed Hickey, Doug and Annette Leiby, plus others we probably missed. Post office staffers Steve Strickler and Kathy Dugdale dug in once again, giving their time to man a special booth offering art show commemorative post cards and the latest philatelic offerings. (Yes, says Kathy, they DO have a few post cards left over from previous years.) And volunteers of all ages, including Mary Hoffman, honored as this year’s oldest art show worker, did what was necessary to assure the show’s continued reputation as one of America’s best.

(Catch scenes from this year’s show at and glimpses of other memorable summer moments at


Bill Care, fresh from a victory against nationally-ranked competitors last weekend near Gettysburg, says the biggest surprise in his 10th place finish at a recent stage race in Burlington, Vt. wasn’t the 10-mile climb at the end. Nor was it the 20 percent grade he and fellow over age 50 cyclists struggled to surmount in the final 500 meters. Rather, it was the cheers from spectators. “Come on, you can do it” and similar encouraging words from admiring strangers are common in such settings.

But when someone shouted, “Come on, BILL” atop a peak 337 miles from home, even our intrepid borough commander paused. There, along the sidelines, was former Mount Gretnan Cory Enck, now living in Boston. “Unbelievable,” says Bill. Cory was one of several hundred spectators lining the hill and watching 750 cyclists finish the demanding four-day race.

(Cory, you’ll recall, was among the top relay finishers in last month’s Xterra Series Triathlon in Mount Gretna, a race he and brother Jason competed in with their dad Paul, observing his 60th birthday.)


Santa’s entry into Mount Gretna will take a slightly different turn this year. Rather than traversing narrow streets, Santa’s fire truck will head straight for the fire hall Dec. 11. There, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., he’ll hear fondest dreams from everyone’s wish list, share a lunch (it’s free!), and deliver gifts to children of all ages.

Karen Lynch, who wonders whether all this talk about Santa “may seem a bit early,” nevertheless sends a plea to all community elves: Anyone wishing to help with soup, sandwiches and cookies, please call 964-3503 or contact And she reminds: “we’ll also need baked goods donations for the cakewalk following the Halloween parade Oct. 29.”


According to 10-year-old Nicole Roberts (“Scout” in Gretna Theater’s recent production of “To Kill A Mockingbird”), the Halloween parade is the best thing that happens in Mount Gretna all year long. Nicole, who her grandmother says can’t wait to take charge of the family’s Timbers Dinner Theater some day, is helping organize a band to lead the parade. Nicole encourages all musicians to join the happy throng (a procession where parade-marchers outnumber parade-watchers by 10 to one.) She urges those who’d like to join her and dad Andy Roberts, plus an entourage of other talented performers, to call 964-2029


(Editing submissions to this newsletter only when there’s a fighting chance that we could improve upon the original, we offer the following advisory untouched. . . from the one, the only Max Hunsicker):

“We have applied for another vulture depredation permit and anticipate the need to bang away again this season, although our hope is that we will continue to see fewer resident birds in Mount Gretna. We will continue to try to use methods that minimize the disruption of our tranquility to the extent it is possible. Please announce that anyone who wishes to become a part of the team can contact me via e-mail at and they will be informed of all meetings. We are seeking volunteers from all areas of the community. As incentive, you may want to mention in passing that Vulture Relocation Team members are typically accorded the status of rock stars in Mount Gretna, with groupies following in our wake, flinging undergarments at us as we go about our rounds (at least I think they are undergarments). --- Thanks, Max.”

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] The fire company’s annual $15 all-you-can-eat pig roast picnic starts THIS Saturday (Sep. 18) at 4:00 p.m., rain or shine. Contributions from Penn Realty, the Hideaway, builder John Balmer, chef Becky Briody and the Mount Gretna Men’s Club annually help underwrite this popular event.

[] An informative Lebanon Daily News article Sept. 12 outlined Mount Gretna historical society’s plans to preserve oral history, establish a museum and provide continuing education. Supporters report growing enthusiasm. For the full report, see:,1413,139%257E10139%257E2396771,00.html.

[] Forest fire expert Ron Strohecker describes steps homeowners in wooded areas must take to protect their properties against Lebanon County’s growing threat of wildland fires at a 7:00 p.m. talk Sept. 21 at Governor Dick nature center. Call 272-3908 to register for the free program.

[] Cornwall Inn hosts a trail ride and dinner Sept. 25 --- offering music, optional escorted rides by Bill Gentile and John Wengert, and an opportunity to donate to Rails to Trails. For reservations, call 306-6178 or e-mail Lynee Porter,

[] Gretna Theater’s Oct. 9 gala at Hotel Hershey, always one of the top events on fall social calendars, offers silent and live auctions, WHP-TV personalities and the annual Coughlan award presentation honoring outstanding volunteers in an elegant (black tie encouraged) setting. Details:

[] Chautauqua summer program organizers Jack Anderson and Kathy Snavely invite suggestions for next year’s offerings. They welcome ideas via voicemail (964-1830) or e-mail: or

[] Gretna Music’s 10th winter concert series leads off with “fiery brass and percussion ensemble” Burning River Brass Nov. 7. Next summer’s concert series offers extra free tickets to patrons buying ticket booklets by Sept. 30. Details:

[] Rail-Trail volunteers will tackle trail maintenance chores again Sept. 25. Mike Dissinger, 273-3338, will tell you what to bring. The group meets at the Colebrook trailhead at 9:00 a.m. Next workday: Oct. 25.

[] “It’s a Girl” banners stretched across LeSorelle Porch & Pantry Café last week announcing the arrival Sept. 9 of six-pound, three-ounce Madeline Ann Winters, daughter of co-owner Tiffany and husband Andy. The café is now open Thursdays-Sundays (see

[] Cornwall’s eight police officers patrolling Mount Gretna and environs now include Lebanon Valley College grad Candace Miller, 24, and David Troxell, 22, a graduate of HACC’s Public Safety Institute. Also on duty: Shadow, the recent police K-9 triathlon champ.

[] Mount Gretna’s Wing and A Prayer praise group appears this month at a prison ministry team service, a church picnic, and a Sept. 25th gathering at the Lititz amphitheater. They’ll also be singing at the fire company’s Sept. 18 pig roast.
Details: Cheryl Burke,

[] Manhattan resident and frequent Mount Gretna visitor Bob Hartman says zinnias in New York cost twice as much and last half as long as Mrs. Hernley’s flowers. Which, come to think of it, is Reason # 838 why life’s better here.

[] Harpist Tom Herald and soprano Lana Walmer present a concert at Mount Gretna’s United Methodist Church Oct. 10 at 3:00 p.m. A reception follows.

[] Why watch TV’s “Crocodile Hunter?” Evelyn Duncan recalls chasing a rabbit through her home on Village Cove Lane. Several years ago, two deer crashed through a glass front door on Valley Road. And last month, Heights residents captured a Timber rattler in their family room.

[] Art show co-founder Reed Dixon ( opens another show at Lancaster Galleries, 34 N. Water St. Oct. 1 with a 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. reception. The show is also part of downtown Lancaster’s “Art Sunday,” Oct. 3. “Always a fun day,” says Reed.

[] Pat Pinsler’s fascinating account of what it’s like to explore America in a motorhome appears in a newsletter that circulates to Mount Gretna Heights residents. For a copy, drop us a note at

[] Winding up the Cicada Festival’s successful 10th anniversary year, coordinator Peter Hewitt credited Mary Ellen Kinch and Kathie Erdman “for long hours and years of dedication when they birthed the festival.” Says Peter: “We need more folk with that kind of commitment.”


50 Dollars given last month to Mount Gretna Fire Company by Farmers Hope Inn, the 250-year-old former stagecoach stop just north of the Turnpike along Route 72. Owners Tim and Terri Brown operate the restaurant (serving, among other things, steaks, crab cakes and chicken) and cheerfully contribute to our firefighters 10 percent of every bill from patrons on Tuesdays who identify themselves as Mount Gretnans.

50 Years of marriage being celebrated next month (Oct. 30) by former Mount Gretna mayor Ralph (Hoagy) and Doris Hogentogler, now living in Florida. “Never went steady that long before,” writes Hoagy, who, along with others in Florida and elsewhere, is a regular reader of this newsletter.

50 to 60 Autos expected to receive free VIN etchings at the theft-deterrent event sponsored by Cornwall Police Sept. 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Call 274-2071 to schedule an appointment.

100 Seating capacity of Mount Gretna Heights’ recently remodeled Community Building, now available for wedding receptions, family reunions and other gatherings. Dick Steinhauer, 964-2362, is scheduling rentals for the May to October 2005 season.
102 Years chalked up thus far by longtime Mount Gretna resident Eleanor Long, now enjoying retirement at Lebanon’s Outlook Pointe. She and her late husband Abram, a former minister, met here and once owned a Yale Avenue cottage. Many Mount Gretna residents call her “Eleanor.” David Long and Janet Jermon, also Mount Gretnans, call her “mom.”

200 Members who’ve joined Mount Gretna area’s historical society, says volunteer Pat Attwood. Annual dues (June 1 to May 31): $10 for individuals, $15 for families and $50 for businesses, payable to Mount Gretna Area Historical Society, P. O. Box 362, Mount Gretna, PA 17064.

600 Dollars left over from that Big Band end-of-summer bash at the lake and going to Mount Gretna’s fire company, United Methodist Church, Wing and A Prayer chorus and three other nonprofit groups here. Organizers Ceylon and Karen Leitzel say this year’s event was so successful they’ll do it again next year, following the art show and before Labor Day.


[] Now that the store is closed, where can I find those unique photo cards created by Kate Dolan?

<> Multimedia artist Kate, who regularly serves patrons at the Timbers Restaurant, nearly always has supplies. Having traveled from Pennsylvania to California, she credits her style, in part, to the various painters, singers, botanists, poets, actors, carpenters, designers, photographers and musicians she’s known --- and to a “fondness for children and their simple, insightful view of the world.” Our reader especially favored a card featuring Kate’s embellished photo of the lake, with canoes piled alongside Adirondack chairs. Kate, who moved here in 1999 and vows never to leave, often enhances photos with watercolors, sometimes adding sparkle, and mixing clippings, cloth, buttons, beads and crayons. Kate ( may also be reached at P. O. Box 434, Mount Gretna, PA 17064.

[] My family and I just returned from another WONDERFUL Mount Gretna vacation. We were sad to find no 2004 mugs left. Where can we find one?

<> A few mugs are still available. . . although supplies are scarce and have vanished faster than ever this year. Drop us a note at We’ll put you in touch with the two remaining sources we know about. All proceeds benefit the fire company.

[] Where can I find a cicada tee shirt?

<> Mount Gretna’s Cicada Festival had some created to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. When we last checked, a few sizes (M, L and XL) were left. The cost is $15 plus a small fee for shipping. Contact Peter Hewitt (


One of the most surprising announcements at this year’s art show volunteers’ picnic came when Joe Shay, after accepting a donation to the fire company, introduced some of the folks who help keep our community safe. Surprising both because of their youth and where they come from.

Our firefighters are essentially a core group of youngsters. Many are in their late teens or early 20s. Several don’t even live in Mount Gretna. They come from places like Cornwall, Lebanon and Manheim. When the alarm sounds, they drop what they’re doing and come running. They also show up for training, some of it rigorous, and all of it time-consuming. While others their age are chasing personal pursuits, they give their time and energy to a calling that transcends self. Twelve of the 20 volunteers are themselves Mount Gretnans. They, like us, live here and know the inestimable value of timely, professional response when it comes to lives and property. That’s what impels them to action. And, when it comes time to give something in return, that’s what impels the rest of us to action as well.

See you at the fire company’s pig roast this Saturday (Sep. 18) at 4:00 p.m.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P. S. Our thanks to the many readers around the world who kindly pass along copies of this newsletter to friends and neighbors, especially those lacking Internet connections. Thanks also to Keith and Robin Volker, whose Mount Gretna Inn maintains a website where you can find previous issues of this newsletter at

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A Special Note to Our Website Readers: Before preparing each newsletter, we often 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:

Preview: Newsletter No. 40 Aug. 30, 2004


September’s coming and that means, in a few days, another issue of Mount Gretna’s locally produced, globally dispatched electronic newsletter. Someone asked recently what publication schedule we follow. The answer is that in our world, schedules delightfully no longer exist. Retirement, as others have doubtless discovered, is doing what one wants to do when one wants to do it. If anybody has a better definition, we’d be pleased to hear it.

So, over the next week or so, please send along your thoughts, notes and notions to our electronic mailbox: We’ll assemble and pass them along in an effort to help everyone keep abreast of events making news these days in Mount Gretna.

Meanwhile, some items of interest:


Unquestionably the biggest news is the sudden spurt of activity behind those newspaper-covered windows at the store. As someone remarked last weekend, “You don’t realize how important something is until it’s gone.” Ever since Bob Andrews closed up the Mount Gretna Deli three months ago, folks here have rediscovered what America’s suburbanites routinely accept as normal: getting a loaf of bread, perforce, means getting into one’s car.

Mount Gretnans hope that’s about to change. The store has new tenants. In a few weeks, Mariano Aquino and son Damian plan to begin offering pizza, cheese steaks and similar Italian delicacies there. Plus milk, bread, coffee and other daily essentials. Right now, they’re busy cleaning up and fitting out the century-old emporium for a new role. It’s their first venture as owners. But having gained similar experience in Hershey, they’re hopeful. So are residents here --- soon to be the mostly 1,500 or so Winterites who make up Mount Gretna’s year-round populace --- and who surely wish them well.

So what about that snake?

Well, while we were in the process of assembling fascinating facts about this year’s art show (which, despite the rains, attracted 15,517 patrons), an even more fascinating note arrived from the Mount Gretna Heights home of Judge and Pat Walter. Mrs. Walter reports that as crowds were dodging downpours on art show Saturday, her son JD glanced down from the TV to discover a real-life adventure uncoiling in their family room. Slithering through an air conditioning vent was a snake, an 18-inch Timber rattler. Perhaps like Mount Gretna’s other 4,232 visitors during Saturday's sustained two-inch rainfall, the snake was merely seeking a spot to dry off. Timber rattlers are rare around here, of course. But JD, who worked during his college years as a landscaper in Texas, knows his rattlesnakes. Using a forked stick, a bent coat hanger and more courage than most of us are likely ever to summon, he and the judge coaxed their uninvited guest into a big paper grocery bag. Together, they carried it to a more accustomed, if wetter, spot outdoors. Presumably a long, long way from the Walter’s homestead, alongside Governor Dick’s 1,100-acre park.

And the Segway? Well, it had to happen. Gadget gurus hereabouts had hoped they might be the first. But time and technology wait for no man. And Kelly Wilson, who divides time between her cottage on Muhlenberg Ave. and a comfortable abode in Chicago, spotted it last week: the first Segway ever to arrive on the streets of Mount Gretna.

Segways, of course, are those ingenious gyroscopically controlled scooters (officially, “human transporters”) invented by Dean Kamen and predicted by some to be the world’s next, perhaps most daunting, technological revolution. Although the revolution thus far seems a long way from ever turning a profit, Segways are nevertheless turning heads. Especially in places like Mount Gretna, where reliable cell phone connections have thus far remained ephemeral.

With an unidentified commander at the helm, the Segway zipped first down Pinch Road, then turned onto Muhlenberg. That probably caused as much talk on August 25, 2004 as the horseless carriage did on August 8, 1900, when (according to Jack Bitner's "Mount Gretna: A Coleman Legacy") an automobile made its first appearance here. We’re glad Kelly was around to file her report and that Jack, over an uncommonly productive lifetime, has faithfully filed his.


More and more reports, of course, are starting to pile up on our stack of newsworthy notes. And in a few days we’ll assemble and pass them along. We’ll have a full report on the 30th annual art show, the completion schedule for that new Verizon cellular tower going up along Mine Road, and other details that --- even in an age of 24-hour cable news --- readers here and around the world are unlikely to find anywhere else.

Meanwhile, remember that big communitywide “pot luck” picnic coming up at the Chautauqua Community Building Sept. 4 (4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) It’s for everybody within walking distance of the post office. That means everybody in Timber Hills, Timber Bridge, Stoberdale, Mount Gretna Heights, the Campmeeting, the Chautauqua and Conewago Hills. Telephone 964-1830 to reserve your place and let them know whether you’re bringing a salad, an entrée or a dessert to share.

Come one, come all. Even if you don’t know anybody, that temporary handicap in one of America’s tiniest towns soon will melt like butter in the sun. For this annual gathering is more than a collection of people sharing Zip Code 17064. . . and more --- far more --- than, in regulation-speak, an assembly of municipal “entities.” It’s a blending of neighborhoods; a melding of talents, resourcefulness and zest for life. . . above all, a recognition that Mount Gretna isn’t a place, it’s a spirit.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Avenue

P.S. Please keep in mind the fire company’s annual $15 all-you-can-eat pig roast picnic on Sept. 18. It starts at 4:00 p.m. Nobody, absolutely nobody, deserves our support more than the folks who provide fire protection in a town where well over half the people live in cottages made of wood. (That’s why we also remind readers to patronize the Farmers Hope Inn on Tuesday nights; if you mention that you’re from Mount Gretna, owners Tim and Terri Brown will donate 10 percent of your bill to our fire company.)