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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 41 October 12, 2004


New readers who are also new residents sometimes remind us of Mount Gretna’s enduring joys.

We recall, for instance, once seeing a motorist with New York license plates stop to affix The Club (an antitheft-device) on his steering wheel as he darted in for an errand at Mount Gretna’s post office. A pair of visiting cyclists from Harrisburg instinctively put double locks on their bicycles one recent Sunday while having breakfast on the porch at Le Sorelle. And a new subscriber wonders just how much candy she should have for ghosts and goblins on trick-or-treat night (Thursday, Oct. 28, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.).

Within reason, we suppose, safeguarding property is always a good idea. But, when it comes to Halloween candy, it’s easy to go overboard. In 15 years we’ve seen --- maybe --- 45 trick or treaters at our door. That’s cumulative. On average, about three a year. Some years more, some years none. But, like most folks, we always wind up with more candy than costumed callers.

That’s not to say Halloween passes unnoticed around here. Far from it. In fact, Halloween may just be the biggest communitywide celebration of the year. And if not the biggest, surely the most fun.

Nicole Roberts thinks so. The enterprising 10-year-old has this year inspired Mount Gretna’s first official Halloween Band, which will lead the parade on Friday, Oct. 29 up Route 117, from the Jigger Shop to the fire hall. Perhaps with Thatcher Bornman, dressed as SuperPumpkin, wearing a giant plastic pumpkin on his head and “SP” emblazoned on his T-shirt.

(Newcomers will want to know that volunteers should deliver their baked goods to the fire hall by 6:00 p.m., the Friday parade starts forming at 6:30, and when it finally reaches its destination, there’ll be sodas, hot dogs, cookies and a cakewalk for all parade participants --- that is, just about everybody left in town. Nicole and the band may also sing at the fire hall a Halloween melody, composed especially for the occasion by none other than Max Hunsicker.)

No, our parade isn’t exactly a spectator event: Marchers outnumber watchers 20 to one. (A few years ago a Gettysburg outfit selling novelties somehow discovered that Mount Gretna was having a parade and sent four vendors loaded down with shopping carts full of plastic Casper Ghosts and other assorted novelties, including magic sticks that glowed in the dark when bent in half. The cheapest was about $6, reports Dale Grundon, who watched the spectacle in utter amazement. “I’m not sure how they got paid,” said Dale in our November 2001 newsletter, “but I’m certain it was based on how much they sold. Their ride back to Gettysburg must have been awfully quiet.”)

Praise now the virtues of modern marketing research. Had the goblin-chasers of Gettysburg checked, they’d have known: Not only is Mount Gretna’s Halloween parade one of the world’s smallest, but 98 percent of the people AT the parade are IN the parade.”


Veterinarian John F. Rill is reluctant to call it an epidemic, but he says the incidence of Lyme disease in dogs this year has “exploded.” One reason may be that vets are now routinely screening for Lyme. But year by year, he says, the problem’s gotten worse.

“Several years ago, we hardly ever saw a case of the disease. Later, we began seeing maybe 35 cases a year.” Since March, however, the Lebanon vet (whose practice is centered a few miles north of town along Route 934) has seen more than “300 positive cases, maybe 400. Most are in dogs from the wooded ‘south mountain’ areas of Mount Gretna, Rexmont, Colebrook, Cornwall and Spring Hill Acres. You’re definitely in a hot spot,” says Rill.

More rigorous screening means that local vets are discovering the illness in dogs without symptoms (sudden lameness is most common, or days when a pet becomes inexplicably quiet and doesn’t feel well). It can have serious neurological effects, such as blindness. How about cats? “At this point, Lyme disease isn’t an entity we’re recognizing in cats,” he says.

Rill recommends that all owners have their dogs screened, adopt a tick and flea preventive program, and, to the extent possible, keep them from underbrush where ticks thrive. “If you remove a tick within 24 hours, you’re probably fine. But the problem is that deer ticks are about the size of a pencil point and difficult to see. If people come in and their dogs have Lyme disease, I tell them to check themselves for ticks. And if they show a bullseye rash, see a doctor immediately.”


With so few homes and cottages on the real estate market nowadays, one might think Mount Gretna could fall victim to the pressures of real estate speculation, as often happens in areas where scarce properties are in high demand.

Fred Schaeffer doesn’t think that’s true. He should know: Fred’s been selling homes and cottages here for years. And he keeps track of every sale, whether or not it shows up on the realtors’ multilisting network.

“Mount Gretna has a tradition of attracting buyers looking for second homes,” he says. “That’s still the driving force behind demand. People buy second homes here because they think it’s a neat area, not because of investment opportunity.” Although no one’s really sure, he estimates that anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of purchases here may be in the second-home category.

But even Fred’s statistics don’t lend themselves to precise interpretation, which ---perhaps like Mount Gretna itself --- is part of the charm:

Property transfers in Mount Gretna’s Seven Neighborhoods:

Year No. Sales Price Range
2004 to date 24 $95,900 to $352,750
2003 50 $35,000 to $325,000
2002 30 $49,900 to $480,000
2001 45 $49,900 to $265,000
2000 29 $77,900 to $325,000

Properties in the lower price ranges, of course, may have been neglected cottages, often little more than “a shell of a house,” says Fred. Those with higher price tags included several that were only a year or two old.

What is certain is that Mount Gretna’s newest neighborhood, Timberbridge in South Londonderry Township, is now all sold out. When every home is built on those lots, it’ll bring the communitywide total to about 725. And our exact population? Nobody knows. Tiny though it may be, the community nevertheless spans three different municipalities and shares two different zip codes (depending on whether mail gets delivered to a home or the post office). We’re content to stick with the fire company’s estimate of about 1,500 --- a number that swells to 2,500 in midsummer. . . and, once a year (on sunny Art Show Sundays) surges for one brief shining moment to 17,000 or so.


Books tracing their origins to Mount Gretna abound these days. Former Navy SEAL Jack Shropp describes his days as a lifeguard at Lake Conewago in “Unbeatable,” an engrossing account of life-enhancing SEAL secrets. Former gift shop operator Veda Boyd a few years ago published “One Came to Stay,” a recollection of childhood memories. Art Show co-founder and former Chautauquan Bruce Johnson last year published “It’s A Fine Line,” a colorful collection of his delightful works. And “Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy” ($20, plus postage) is available directly from author Jack Bitner (964-3058) and remains an all-time favorite.

Now comes “The Buried Treasure of Mt. Gretna,” a first novel by Charlotte Valentine, whose grandfather was among the Campmeeting’s earliest residents.

Charlotte’s adventure concerns young people, “but it’s for everybody, especially those who love Mount Gretna as I do,” she says. It’s about a girl who, en route to Mount Gretna Park aboard a train in 1915, unwittingly comes to possess a treasure stolen from a Titanic survivor. What happens between then and a fateful moment 85 years later when another girl finds the treasure hidden in Mount Gretna’s now-abandoned park, propels the tale. A summary and excerpt appear at (Select "Bookstore," then enter "Charlotte Valentine" under the tab “Author”). Offered in hard or soft cover ($20 or $13.50), the book is available directly from the publisher (1-888-280-7715) and will be on sale at Remember When gift shop next spring.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Mount Gretna Pizzeria operator Mariano Aquino hopes to open in December, maybe sooner. Still mulling over which items he’ll offer, the affable entrepreneur plans to serve patrons daily from around 7:00 a.m. (coffee, buns, other morning favorites) until 9:00 p.m. Newspapers? Perhaps. Mariano hasn’t decided.

[] That cellular tower along Mine Road is on schedule to begin serving Mount Gretna callers in January, says Verizon Wireless’ project manager Jack Thomas. Police and fire antennas could be ready before then. Will other cellular companies use the tower? “Nobody’s asked yet,” says Jack.

[] Ever alert to shifting trends, marketing maven Kathy Snavely ( and her mountaintop neighbors seek different takeout suggestions for the Fire Company’s Nov. 13 soup fundraiser. Venerable chicken corn and vegetable soups have helped raise over $400 to date. Time for something new? Tell Kathy.

[] Cooks competing in the Nov. 13 soup cook-off must preregister by calling 964-1851. The annual contest starts at noon, filling firefighter coffers and everybody’s appetites, with exotic creations such as Harvest Chowder --- Elaine Baum’s award-winning 2003 entry.

[] Leaf pickups begin in the Heights Monday, Oct. 18. In the Campmeeting, supervisor Merv Lentz picks them up whenever they pile up, mostly in November. Borough leaf pickups start Nov. 1 and 15. Leaf collections in Timber Hills? Maybe someday, but not this year.

[] Repairing their Melbourne Beach home after Hurricane Frances, Bill and Ann Andrews were forced to evacuate twice as Hurricane Jeanne whipped across Florida. Enduring days without water, phones or electricity, “we suffered lots of damage, but so many are so much worse off,” says Ann.

[] Former mayor Hoagy Hogentogler and Doris stayed put in Port Canaveral, losing only a few mango tree limbs despite 120 mph winds. “I can’t believe our sailboat rode it out at the dock without damage,” says Hoagy (, now planning a 50th-anniversary celebration Oct. 30.

[] “Flower Lady” Mary Hernley says unless a frost hits, she’ll be selling flowers right through October. Church business will take her away this Saturday Oct. 16, and again Oct. 30th. Otherwise, she’ll be right here, where she’s been on weekends for the past 39 years.

[] Remember When gift shop will keep 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekend hours until mid-December. Owner Reenie Macsisak adds that Fairy Penguin Hannah, and other sprites dwelling along Pennsylvania Avenue, treasure appreciative messages visitors left in the fairy garden book this summer.

[] Plays tentatively on tap for Gretna Theater’s 2005 season include “Greater Tuna,” “A Grand Night for Singing,” “Angel Street,” and either “The Fantasticks” or “Little Shop of Horrors.” The season will close with the Tammy Wynette musical, “Stand By Your Man.”

[] Susquehanna Area Mountain Bikers Association ( is making repairs to Governor Dick’s rain-battered trails. Brian Arnold ( says they need helpers. Tools will be provided, but bring gloves and wear boots. They'll keep working until snow starts falling, and resume next spring, he says.

[] Bob Sims offers to check in regularly on unoccupied properties. He lives over the mountain in Manheim and says his new business, Your Watchful Eye, now serves four absentee cottage owners here; he’d like to serve others. Tel. (717) 665-7348 or 575-2375. E-mail:

[] Mount Gretna’s firefighters are now using the latest personal protective gear, including air paks, a thermal imaging camera that finds hidden fires smoldering behind walls and an air sampler that sniffs airborne toxins.

[] Our firefighters count on your support at the Oct. 16 block shoot. YOU can count on prizes, hot dogs and ham and bean soup topping anything you’ve ever tasted. . . even if you’re a regular at the Ritz. The fun begins at noon.

[] Timber Hills artists Floss Russell, Barbara Fishman and Shelby Applegate join Chautauqua’s Les Miller on the Central Pennsylvania 2004 Art Studio Tour Nov. 13-14. The free (sixth annual) driving tour spans three counties and features the works and working habitats of 29 artists; see

[] Harrisburg St. Patrick’s Cathedral organist Tom Tiehel presents an afternoon recital at the Hewitt-McAnney Princeton Avenue home Nov. 20. It’s part of the National Federation of Music Club’s annual American music tribute, hosted by Heights resident and Harmonia Music Club president Pat Walter. Details:

[] Horse-drawn wagon rides will raise money for Lebanon Valley’s Rail Trail Oct. 30. Leaving from Lawn Fire Company’s parking lot (off Route 241) noon to 4:00 p.m., the 25-minute rides cost $5 for adults, $2 ages 5 to 12. Youngsters 4 and under are free.

[] Rail Trail volunteers will meet at the Colebrook trailhead Oct. 30 to tackle trail maintenance chores, starting at 9:00 a.m. Mike Dissinger, 273-3338, has details and can tell you what you’ll need to bring.

[] Motorhome traveler Evelyn Duncan, now in Williamsburg, Va., before departing next month for Florida, reports meeting at Bruton Parish Church last Sunday an Allentown pastor who’d spent boyhood summers at Mount Gretna. Motoring and discovering unexpected shared experiences is part of the fun, she says.

[] Art show exhibitor Pegge Shannon ( opens her 314 Pennsylvania Avenue cottage for a holiday open house Nov. 13-14. Six artisans will display their latest creations in jewelry, pottery, hats, porcelain tiles, boxwood trees and cards. Donations benefit Mount Gretna’s fire company.

[] Volunteers restoring the 16th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument near Lake Conewago expect to begin the facelift next spring. Coordinator Jim Seltzer says facts about the infantry’s encampment at Mount Gretna’s Camp Hastings appear on the Web at

[] Mount Gretna’s historical society will (thanks to Keith Volker) soon make its Web debut at Among items you’ll see: Fred Swarr’s award-winning logo contest design. Fred (also known as Dr. Dzign) and wife Valerie moved to their 301 Bell Avenue cottage permanently last June.

[] Jessica Groff Kosoff, maybe the only person to have grown up here and actually lived in four of Mount Gretna’s seven neighborhoods, is Penn Realty’s newest sales rep. She studied architectural engineering in Colorado, was a project engineer in Mechanicsburg and is now a mom.

[] An adult Sunday discussion group is forming at Mount Gretna United Methodist Church. Cheryl Burke,, has details. She adds the church’s musical group “Wing and a Prayer” blends traditional and contemporary Christian music at 8:30 and 10:00 morning services there and regional performances elsewhere.

[] Timberbridge, Mount Gretna’s newest neighborhood, is forming a homeowners’ association. The group's board expects to appoint officers by year-end. Meanwhile, Gaughen Realty confirms that all 21 lots in the development, which started in 1995, have now been sold.

[] Shelby Applegate, 203 Valley Road, is among the artists whose works are on display at Penn State Harrisburg’s Morrison Gallery. A juried exhibit features paintings from Susquehanna Art Museum’s Doshi Group, whose members will be at an Oct. 18 reception to answer questions.


2 Deer hit by Mount Gretna area motorists so far this season. Game experts warn the danger continues through Thanksgiving, easing only by mid-December. "Deer become preoccupied with finding the opposite sex or staying ahead of rival suitors. Fawns, left alone while their moms follow nature's calling, often wander naively. Deer don't maintain the invisibility and distance that typically keeps them safe," says the game commission’s Vern Ross, who adds that drivers shouldn't assume trouble has passed after a deer crosses the road. "The threat isn’t over. It could signal that others may follow, sometimes blindly." Bucks often chase does closely or follow with their heads to the ground nosing a scent. "Trailing bucks are famous for obsessive conduct," says a wildlife official. "Even in daylight, some are preoccupied and step in front of tractor-trailers, ignore blaring horns or walk right by people. That’s not normal deer behavior. But in late November, it’s not abnormal, either."

3 Monuments originally built here to commemorate Mount Gretna’s role in mustering and training troops deployed in Puerto Rico against the Spanish in 1898. One honored the 16th Pennsylvania Infantry (see Two others paid tribute to the Governor’s Troop and Sheridan Troop cavalries. Jim Seltzer (, now helping restore the first monument, says the Sheridan monument has disappeared. “If anyone has knowledge of where this AWOL monument is hiding, it would be appreciated,” he says.

6 Snakes (at least) that neighbors have called former biology teacher Chuck Allwein to remove from their homes during his 35 years here. But, in all that time, he’s never seen anything like the (now famous) 18-inch Timber Rattler that slithered through an air-conditioning vent on Art Show Saturday this year into a Mount Gretna Heights family room.

99 Years a Mount Gretna cottage has been in the same family. That’s a record, we think. Peg Hicks Byford now owns the Campmeeting cottage at 503 Second Street, completed in 1905 by her father, Col. William Hicks, who commanded the National Guard installation. Another daughter, Kate Hicks Troup, was born here in 1922, making her perhaps Mount Gretna’s oldest living native. Kate now lives in Carlsbad, Calif. and recalls roller-skating to Colebrook. Sister Peg, who pored through years of paperwork to document for us the family cottage history (right down to a receipt for lumber bought at the George Krause Hardware Store on Nov. 30, 1904), lives in Timber Hills.

130 Police and other public safety folks called into service for the vice president’s visit last month to Cornwall. Police chief Bruce Harris says he received notice Wednesday morning that a vice presidential visit might be in the works for Monday, but exact details weren’t confirmed until the next day at 3:00 p.m. “It took a lot of coordinating with state police, the Secret Service and county public safety agencies” (including 44 officers from local police departments), he says. “It was a pleasant experience. I wouldn’t want to go through it every day, but I’m glad he came to Cornwall,” says Chief Harris --- now likely to be the only Cornwall police chief who’ll ever hang in his office a picture of himself with a visiting vice president of the United States.

235 Pounds weighed by that pig Becky Briody roasted at the fire company’s September fundraiser (See Donating her time to the firefighters every year, Becky lights 96 pounds of charcoal at 4:30 a.m., douses the pig with a can of beer and three pounds of Lawry’s seasoned salt, and continues the roasting for another 11 hours. About 4:00 p.m., she (with help) pulls the barbecued pig from a giant oven and puts it under a blanket (“to keep it warm and rested”) for an hour. The carving begins at 5:00 p.m. and takes two hours to complete, she says. She’ll do it again next year. Energy and skill abounding, she does it all for our firefighters. None better anywhere, we’d say --- whether you’re talking barbecue. . .firefighters. . . or Becky!

800 Patrons (maybe as many as 1,000) attending the Heritage Festival’s four Satuday night programs this summer at the Campmeeting Tabernacle. Festival coordinator Mary Blackburn extends thanks to all who helped with chicken barbecues, yard sales and other fundraisers to underwrite the family entertainment series.

4000 Pounds weighed by Jonestown Bank’s ATM, just installed under the Lodge porch (where Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry Café operates each Fridays through Sundays). 4000 pounds? Nobody’s gonna steal it.


[] “Has anyone ever suggested a design contest to improve on those three-foot-high block letters “Mt. Gretna Mtce.” on the side of that building along the Pennsylvania Turnpike? Of all the maintenance sheds across the state, that one has the worst lettering --- woeful since it identifies a setting where the arts are a priority and aesthetic appreciation runs high.”

<> As a matter of fact, the Turnpike commission’s public relations and maintenance staffs are open to the idea. But, given current commitments, they acknowledge “it’s not high on our list of priorities.” We passed along the questioner’s view that as an arts-centered community, Mount Gretna’s concern for aesthetics is probably higher than most. Our reader, while acknowledging demands on the Turnpike’s resources, nevertheless hopes that when it’s time to give the building another coat of paint, they’ll find a design more in keeping with Mount Gretna’s traditions, values and heritage. And, with artistic talent in abundance clustered in a village less than one mile away, turnpike officials promise to take the design contest idea “under advisement.”

[] “Why is it that Timber Hills never is included in the Dale's Delights pictures? I lived in the Campmeeting for nine years before moving to Timber Hills, and I think it is equally beautiful here, if not more so, but in a different way. Not much is said in the newsletter about our area either.”

<> Thanks for asking. The truth is, we LOVE to include news about ALL of the communities that make up Mount Gretna’s seven neighborhoods. And we encourage suggestions and contributions from them all. Yet, apart from Conewago Hills (and, as of last month, Timberbridge), we’re not aware of a single community organization such as those that thrive in Mount Gretna Heights, the Campmeeting or Chautauqua. Years of tradition explain that in part, we suppose. Also, we happen to believe that small town post offices --- where neighbors greet neighbors, pause to chat, and share news --- may be the best investment the United States government ever made. That said, however, we intend to redouble our efforts to cull news from both sides of Route 117, helping folks discover more about their neighbors, their opportunities for rewarding interactions, and their neighborhoods. Please consider this Newsletter yours to share, to build and to extend the benefits that come from your good choice in having selected, as a place to live, one of the best places of all.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. Our thanks to all who pass along copies of this bulletin to others lacking links to the Internet, or to those whose e-mail addresses may not yet appear on our free subscription list. (That list, incidentally, isn’t shared with anyone. It’s used only to send out this letter. We don’t like junk mail and presume you don’t either.)

Thanks also to Keith Volker, who faithfully posts back issues (and interim updates) to the website And special thanks to all who support organizations like the Arts Council and fire company, whose activities benefit every single inhabitant here. Remember, Tuesday nights are “fire company night” at Farmers Hope Inn. Mention that you’re from Mount Gretna, and 10 percent of your tab goes to our firefighters.
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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:

What’s happening in Mount Gretna?

That’s what we’ll report on in our next newsletter. . . coming up soon.

We’ll have details on Mount Gretna’s Halloween Parade. . . and its first official marching band --- inspired by Nicole Roberts, an imaginative 10-year-old who affirms, with conviction, that our Halloween Parade is the best thing that happens here all year long.

But the band is only part of the fun. There’ll be costumed marchers, a float (maybe two) and spectators flocking into town from three continents.*

And look for details on the much-awaited opening of the Mount Gretna Pizzeria, which owners Mariano and Damian Aquino hope to start sometime next month. Along with pizzas, subs and sandwiches they plan to offer bread, milk, eggs and other daily essentials.

We’ll also report on construction progress for that long-awaited tower promising reliable cellular service for the entire community. . . together with an update on plans for nudging this fall's vulture visitors toward treetop roosts more compatible with the lifestyles of fellow (but featherless) planet-dwellers who roost below.

All this plus other items offered solely for the purpose of informing and sometimes amusing denizens dwelling --- in fact or in spirit --- under the umbrella of United States Postal Zip Code 17064.

So send your news, notes and notices to We’ll happily fold them into the next newsletter bringing everyone up to date. . . and helping all to savor the colorful joys of another fall season, which many in Mount Gretna regard as the very best season of all.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce, 213 Stevens Ave.

P.S. Don’t forget: while contestants aim for targets at the fire company’s Oct. 16 block shoot, EVERYONE can aim for prizes, hot dogs and Alice McKeone’s famous ham and bean soup. Target shooting starts at Noon. The fun begins even before. And the benefits (to our firefighters and our community) linger all year long.

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* Spectators from "three continents"? Perhaps that's just another of our occasional touches of irrational exuberance. But we DO expect to see at the Oct. 29 parade people from all seven of Mount Gretna’s distinctive, energetic and community-spirited neighborhoods. And we can guarantee that newsletter subscribers on at least three continents will delight in reading about those festive peregrinators and marching musicians who promise to make this year’s parade one of the most memorable ever.