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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 45 March 4, 2005


March in Mt. Gretna is a curious mixture: sights of winter mingling with the muted sounds of spring. A sudden abundance of snow on Monday, yet melting by week’s end. . . moistening and readying the earth for snowdrops, robins, and the season to come.

It is a quiet time. Gone temporarily are about half of our regulars, Snow Birds savoring winter in sunny havens stretching from the Carolinas to the southern tip of Florida. And in their place: Snow Geese --- about 115,000 of them last weekend by one estimate, passing overhead enroute to Canada, making a brief stopover to munch at Middle Creek’s 6,000-acre wildlife area.

Dale Grundon, our peripatetic photographer with an artist’s touch and a keen sense of history, posts the latest glimpses of winter at There you can also see what Mt. Gretna winters were like three decades ago: snow-covered scenes of the original post office in the 1970s, the Conewago Creek bridge, and what was then known as The Wee Tree Gift Shop. Dale also has views of other early Mt. Gretna scenes, including a concession stand that now has vanished and the former golf driving range at Soldiers Field. There also are glimpses of the 1976 Bicentennial Band Concert --- all reminding us of how far we’ve come, or (to the relief of many) not come, since then.

Indeed, except for cellular phones, to which we’re still adjusting, life in this town may more closely resemble what it was three, even five, decades ago than almost any other place in the U.S.A. Hooray for us!

The pace hasn’t picked up much. Yet plows still swing into action at the first sign of snow. (Our crew’s favorite TV commercial depicts snowplow drivers revving their engines and scanning the skies, searching for first signs of a single spiraling snowflake.) But so far, their snow-scooping duties have been light. True, they worked until ten last Monday night and were back at it again before daybreak on Tuesday. But that’s nothing compared to the Winter of ’94 when the playhouse collapsed and they toiled 'round the clock, catnapping in truck cabs and getting just enough sleep so they could go out again a few hours later. Since then, they’ve built a new maintenance shed and added a couple of cots for times when crews must work throughout the night.

Here and there, other improvements are underway. Emergency communications specialists are working to link that new tower along Mine Road to six others in a countywide network for police and fire units. Emergency communications chief John Wilson says he expects to complete the job shortly, formally launching the network by Apr. 1. That should go a long way toward making life easier for the men and women who protect lives and property here. Meanwhile, for ordinary cell phone callers, Verizon seems likely to be the only game in town for awhile. Verizon’s Jack Thomas says no other cellular company has yet asked about renting space on the Mt. Gretna tower.

Still seeking roosting space, however, are occasional swarms of what appear to be late-arriving buzzards, stubbornly persistent holdovers from earlier eras. Having once sampled Mt. Gretna’s hospitality, they hold fond memories and return from time to time expecting more of the same. But our equally persistent patrols, volunteers all, send a consistent, singular message: Mt. Gretna’s welcome, usually gracious, extends not to buzzards.

What Mt. Gretnans would graciously extend, however, is thanks for any help PennDOT might offer to make driving safer along Route 117. Alas, supervisor Dale Good says our main roadway didn’t make the cut in PennDOT’s latest round of priorities. No embedded reflectors to aid older drivers returning from plays and concerts. No guardrails where only a few feet separate the roadway from the lake. And only patchwork repairs, sometime after a new budget year begins Jul. 1, to battered shoulders all along the route. “Hopefully, we can hold it together for a little while longer,” he says.

Meanwhile, at Governor Dick Park, forester Barry Rose is readying his long-range plans to restore vitality to the forest’s plants, trees and wildlife. He’ll outline his recommendations to the park’s board at their regular meeting Mar. 17. Although their "third Thursday" board meetings are always open to the public, Governor Dick officials are hoping for a larger turnout at a later, more widely publicized, special session when they’ll seek additional ideas for preserving what most Mt. Gretnans deem a natural treasure.

The quietest month? Maybe. But one in which Mt. Gretnans, as they have for more than a century, pause only briefly to reflect, to plan, and to prepare for the coming of spring.


The Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society sends out an urgent plea for help to preserve a valuable collection that goes up for auction next week.

Historical society president Fred Buch says that Mt. Gretna Heights resident James K. Hunley, who died Dec. 27, “had a terrific collection” of artifacts from the National Guard’s encampments here. He was planning to donate some of those items to the society, but before all details had been worked out, Jim suffered a fall and died not long afterwards. Now the collection is scheduled to be sold at Ezell Auction House Mar. 9.

“This puts the historical society in a bind,” says Fred. “We don’t have funds to purchase items and little time to raise funds to save this collection from being spread to the winds, when it should be preserved in Mt. Gretna.” He asks for contributions to help buy some of the artifacts.

Fred requests that donors contact him immediately (toll free: 800-242-3901, or by e-mail so he’s aware of contributions made for this special need. Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society, P.O. Box 362, Mount Gretna, PA 17064, is a 501(c)(3) organization; contributions are tax-deductible.

“It would be a major disaster if Mount Gretna loses the important artifacts in this collection,” he says. “We cannot buy the entire collection. However, Jack Ezell, a Mt. Gretna resident, is being cooperative in allowing us to view items before the auction so we’ll have time to select those we need to preserve.”


The box office won’t open until June. The shows don’t start until August. But if you want to make sure you’ll have a seat, you might get your ticket orders in ahead of the crowd.

Cicada’s 11th season begins Aug. 9. And there’s a good chance that --- at $6 a ticket and with shows by some of the most popular artists in central Pennsylvania --- performances could be sold out long before the curtain goes up.

The lineup:
[] Aug. 9 Swing Fever Dance Band “honoring our troops with a USO evening”
[] Aug. 10 Nancy Reed (“Central Pennsylvania’s Ella Fitzgerald”) and Friends
[] Aug. 11 Summer Harmony, 80-voice male chorus returns by popular demand
[] Aug. 15 The Mudflaps, a popular northeastern Pennsylvania dance band
[] Aug. 16 The Mainstreet Brass Quintet (performing pop classics, Broadway tunes and favorite hymns)

Want to get your order in early? Pick the shows you want to see and send a self-addressed stamped envelope with your check to: The Cicada Festival, Attn: Dept T., P. O. Box 627, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.

Organizer Peter Hewitt says they’ll handle prepaid requests on a first-come, first-served basis, starting with the earliest postmarks. Early birds can expect to receive their tickets in the mail, but only AFTER the box office officially opens Jun. 1.


Several readers have asked about summer employment opportunities here, either for themselves or for their children or grandchildren. Our survey of area businesses turns up these possibilities, for both youngsters and adults. If we missed any, please let us know. We’ll include them in our next bulletin:

[] The Mt. Gretna Hideaway restaurant typically hires eight to 10 employees each summer. Stop by to fill out an application, or call 964-3170 for directions.

[] Mt. Gretna Lake hires 40 to 50 student-age employees each season. Applications and other details appear on the website

[] And summer jobs aren’t just for youngsters. Miniature golf course operator Phil Schneider says retirees often enjoy working at the course --- collecting money, handing out clubs, and sharing duties with other retirees who collaborate to work out their own weekly schedules. Above all, says Phil, they enjoy chatting with customers, a surprising number of whom are grandparents like themselves, out enjoying an afternoon of golf with grandchildren while parents are working. Details:

[] Sue Loehr needs to hire playground supervisors this summer, (964-2225).

[] Gretna Music ( is offering a summer arts management internship starting in May. The position includes a $2,500 stipend. (717-361-1508).

[] And, as mentioned last month, applicants for jobs at the Jigger Shop can call Drew or Linda Allwein, (964-3704 in winter; 964-9686 in summer). Applicants must be at least 14 years old. Drew says they send applications promptly and hire for each season around Easter, choosing about 60 students each year to maintain adequate staffing and accommodate their employees’ “busy social calendars.”


Gretna Theater is pulling together final details for its 2005 season. Several loose ends to tie up, we're told, including some contract talks now underway. Here's the schedule, subject to last-minute changes: "Driving Miss Daisy"(1988 Pulitzer-prize winner) Jun. 14-25, Rogers and Hammerstein's "A Grand Night For Singing" Jun. 28-Jul. 9, the suspenseful thriller "Gaslight" (also known as "Angel Street") Jul. 12-23, the world's longest-running (over 41 years) musical "The Fantasticks" Jul. 26 - Aug. 6, and the first area performance of "Stand By Your Man," celebrating the life and music of Tammy Wynette, Aug. 23-Sep. 3.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Bruce Gettle (964-2319) says a baseball autographed by Phillies’ Pat “The Bat” Burrell and a puck signed by Flyers goalie Ron Hextall are among antiques and collectables being auctioned at the firehouse tomorrow (Mar. 5) at 10:00 a.m. to benefit Lebanon’s Chestnut Street Log House.

[] Gretna Music presents a concert of Beethoven string quartets Mar. 18. An artist’s reception with light hors d’oeuvres at Lynden Gallery, and preconcert lecture (“Beethoven and the aristocracy”) at Elizabethtown’s Leffler Center precedes the 7:30 p.m. performance by Vienna’s Artis Quartet. Details: 361-1508, or

[] Howard and Shelby Applegate will sponsor a lecture by nationally recognized potter Cynthia Bringle Apr. 9, in Lebanon Valley College’s Women Artists series. Ms. Bringle teaches at North Carolina’s Penland School of Crafts, where Shelby has studied for the past 11 summers. See

[] Like public works supervisors everywhere this week, South Londonderry’s Scott Galbraith reminds folks to avoid shoveling snow onto roadways. . . compounding problems and creating safety hazards for automobiles and snowplows alike.

[] Cornwall police secretary Shirley Trimmer, the native Floridian who loves skiing and just returned from Canada’s slopes, plans another yard sale in April, maybe early May, to benefit needy families at Christmas. Last year’s sale netted $528, a record. Items to donate? Call Shirley: 274-2071.

[] Art show director Linda Bell says this year’s judges will include two with art degrees and two others with backgrounds in design and “an eye for what people look for at art shows.” She says choosing new judges every year keeps the show fresh.

[] Horticulturalist (and Mine Road neighbor for more than 20 years) Ginger Pryor joins forestry botanist Autumn Sebo and commercial forester Jim Rutt for a seminar on controlling invasive plants, Mar. 24 at 7:00 p.m. in Lebanon’s Agricultural Center. Register by Mar. 21. Tel. 272-3908.

[] Mt. Gretna’s Apr. 30 road rally (sponsor: Bridge of Hope, aiding homeless mothers) offers trophies, medals and lunch, says organizer Barb Charles. Team entry fee: $50. Details: (717) 389-0296 or e-mail A “secret destination” barbecue picnic for contestants, sponsors and spectators follows the rally.

[] Outdoor enthusiasts who’d like to learn more about promoting and identifying birds and other wildlife can join Pennsylvania game land manager Scott Bills on an 8:30 a.m. nature walk through Game Lands 145 (at Epler Road) Apr. 28. To register, call 272-3908 by Apr. 25.

[] Mt. Gretna’s United Methodist Church needs an organist and offers $100 a week (with one week off per month, if desired). Interested? Call the church office (964-3241) weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to Noon.

[] Summertime’s Wednesday radio and film festival resumes Jul 13 with “The Al Jolson Story.” Organizers hope big crowds --- especially for programs like SOAP’s (Spirit of Airwaves Players) live-with-sound-effects-reenactments of “The Lone Ranger,” “Fibber McGee” and others --- will help keep the festival alive.

[] Add Yale Avenue cottage owner Rex Everest to the list of Mt. Gretna restaurant operators. “Batdorf,” his third restaurant venture, just opened at the thoroughly renovated Old Annville Inn, emphasizing southwest and Mediterranean dishes, plus lighter fare, in a warm, casual atmosphere.” Details: (717) 867-0113.

[] Tracy Sommer says her family would like to rent a cottage here for the summer. Her number: (717) 737-9090; e-mail:


Tuesday book reviews this summer begin Jun. 28 with emeritus history professor Howard Applegate's review of Sidney Poitier’s “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.” Others in this increasingly popular Lebanon Valley College series at Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. include:

[] Jul. 5 “September Swoon: Richie Allen, The 64 Phillies and Racial Integration” by William C. Kashatus. Reviewer: Arthur Ford, emeritus professor of English
[] Jul. 12 “The Italian Boy” by Sarah Wise. Reviewer: Kevin Pry, assistant professor, English
[] Jul. 19 “Leonardo Da Vinci: Flights of the Mind,” a biography by Charles Nicholl. Reviewer: Scott Schweigert, Suzanne Arnold Art Gallery director and assistant art professor
[] Jul. 26 “An End to Suffering” by Pankaj Mishra. Reviewer: John Heffner, professor of philosophy
[] Aug. 2 “Nature Via Nurture” by Matthew Ridley. Reviewer: Kerrie Laguna, associate professor of psychology
[] Aug. 9 “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas” by Elaine Pagels. Reviewer: Jeffrey Robbins, assistant professor of religion
[] Aug. 16 “Death in Strange Countries” by Donna Leon. Reviewer: Diane Iglesias, professor, Spanish
[] Aug. 23 “An American Dream” by James Cullen. Reviewer: Gary Grieve-Carlson, professor, English
[] Aug. 30 “The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency” by Philip Melanson. Reviewer: Jean-Paul Benowitz, instructor of history


It might just have been the most talked-about, best-attended event of the season last summer. So Karen and Ceylon Leitzel are planning another end-of-summer beach party Aug. 27. And already, ticket orders are flowing in.

The Leitzels, Big Band aficionados who learned the dance style from none other than Lindy Hop specialist Frankie Manning himself, say Mt. Gretna’s second annual “beach party under the stars” will include wine-tastings from a local winery. Participants are also free to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages.

“We’re already getting calls for information and tickets,” says Ceylon. They expect to have about 200 tickets available for tables under the tent. After those tickets are sold, they’ll offer whatever space remains under the porch as well as lawn and beach areas for those wishing to bring along their own lawn chairs and blankets. Ceylon (964-1829) promises to reserve tables for those buying 10 tickets as long as the supply lasts. Tickets, at $18 each, will be sent in June to those placing advance orders to “Big Band at Mt. Gretna Lake,” P. O. Box 202, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.


Organ recitals begin Jul. 7 at the 1 Princeton Ave. home of Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney. There’s no admission charge, but because seating is limited to 100 persons, reservations are essential. Peter also appreciates donations to help pay for refreshments. Details: 964-3856.

Appearing in the series this year:

Jul. 7 Roger A. Kurtz, organist and choir director, Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist, York
Jul. 14 Charles M. Yocum Jr., retired organist and choir director, and Charles M. Yocum III, violinist
Jul. 21 Gerald Miller, organist, and Estelle Hartranft, cellist
Jul. 28 Barry Holben, vice president, Allen Organ Co. and organist at Christ UCC Church, Bethlehem

Sandy Roman (, 964-1133), who helps coordinate refreshments at the concerts, needs volunteers. She also appreciates donations of everything from fruit, cheese and crackers to cocktail napkins.


[] Where can I find trail maps for Governor Dick Park?

<> Carol McLaughlin has a supply at the West Cornwall Township office (272-9841). They're also available at Gretna Computing in Mt. Gretna. When it reopens this spring, Governor Dick's Nature Center (964-3808) will also have trail maps.

[] I'm trying to find more information about the Mt. Gretna triathlon, which I believe is scheduled for May 2005.

<> Details for the May 28 event appear at Organizer Chris Kaag says proceeds will benefit research into neurodegenerative disorders, which crippled Chris himself seven years ago, at age 21. Last year’s race attracted 470 contestants and raised over $16,500.

[] Have those leading the reforestation efforts at Governor Dick Park been in touch with Penn State’s Forestry School? I just read in my Alumni News that there is a program developing a blight resistant American Chestnut which is showing some success. The American Chestnut was once the dominant species in Mt. Gretna. It might be an excellent place to do some large-scale test plantings, beneficial both to the University and to Mt. Gretna. . . and a coup to have the American Chestnut restored to its original environment.

<> Thanks for the inspired suggestion. We’ve passed it along to Governor Dick Park’s board, which has contracted with forester Barry Rose (himself a Penn State forestry grad) for a long-range plan to restore the forest’s original vigor.

[] I'm working on local history and genealogy. In some 1898 microfilmed newspaper reports from my area, Sharpsburg (east of Pittsburgh), there are stories about troops from here departing for Mt. Gretna, where the state militia was mobilizing and awaiting further orders. Where would I find information about the area that the troops were sent to, the training they experienced, and where were they deployed after training?

<> You might start with You may also wish to contact Mt. Gretna's historian, Jack Bitner, author of "Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy." (Cost: $20, plus postage, available from the author himself. Tel. 964-3058 or mail P. O. Box 301, Mount Gretna, PA 17064). Or, if you're walking by 24 Muhlenberg Ave. and he happens to be home, he’ll likely welcome you onto his porch for an enjoyable chat and memorable insights into Mt. Gretna's heritage.


3 Dates already booked this year at the Heights Community Building, a popular spot for wedding receptions, family reunions, meetings, dancing and art classes, and similar events. Dick Steinhauer says May 14, 17 and Jun 11 are reserved, but he has plenty of other openings for the 100-person facility, which includes a kitchen, piano, playground and parking area. Call him at 964-2362.

5 Cities around the world called “Gretna.” Best known is Gretna, Scotland, whose powerhouse soccer team, with 13 successive wins in Division III, is again challenging for top honors in Scottish football. Another powerhouse in football (American style) is Gretna, Va., where the Gretna High Hawks again won the state championship last year. Gretna, La. (just outside New Orleans), Gretna, Neb. (outside Omaha), and Gretna, Fla. (about 30 miles west of Tallahassee) complete the lineup.
According to Jack Bitner’s “Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy,” our town took its name from a suggestion by the wife of Hugh Maxwell, an officer helping direct construction of the Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad here 123 years ago. Presumably she drew her inspiration from the city known as “the natural gateway to Scotland,” along England’s northern border.

9 Weeks after Christmas, some people still were dropping off their Christmas trees at that pickup site along Route 117. The deadline for drop-offs was Feb. 1. Can anything possibly be more forlorn than formerly festive trees, more than four fortnights later?

4,500 Tundra swans joining those 115,000 snow geese at Middle Creek last weekend. Visitors planning to see waterfowl should bring a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Best times to come: early or late in the day. “That’s when things are happening,” says a wildlife officer. For directions, times and other details, see and click on “watchable wildlife.”


A reminder to kindly mention your former e-mail address when notifying us that you’ve switched to a new one.

Thanks to all those who faithfully distribute copies of Mt. Gretna’s Newsletter to friends lacking links to the Internet. And thanks, too, to the many more that forward this newsletter electronically to others, both here and around the world, that may not yet have discovered it. Your thoughtful gestures extend our circulation to levels, and to places, we never dreamed of when we began this modest pastime four years ago. We consider you valued members of the team. . . a team that seems to share profound appreciation for Robert Coleman’s divine inspiration.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce


{::} Need someone to check your cottage while you're away? Bob Sims of “Your Watchful Eye” donates 10 percent of his monthly fees from new clients to Mt. Gretna's Arts Council. Tel. (717) 665-7348 or 575-2375. E-mail:

{::} Tuesdays are Mt. Gretna Fire Company Night at Farmer’s Hope Inn along Route 72, just north of the turnpike. Tell them you’re a Mt. Gretnan; owners Tim and Terri Brown donate 10 percent of your bill to our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-4500.
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Sent: Saturday, February 19, 2005 9:56 AM
Subject: Coming Up, Another Mt. Gretna Newsletter (Pls. forward)

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:

Mt. Gretnans are gradually discovering it. Some with an unexpected ring from a cell phone they forgot to turn off when they came home from work. Others just naturally curious and making periodic tests for themselves: Mt. Gretna now is officially linked to the cellular world.

Verizon activated its cell tower Tuesday morning, a few days earlier than planned. So callers here with Verizon service can now make and receive cellular calls at full signal strength. Callers with other wireless services will have to wait. Verizon says that, so far, no other cellular company has asked to rent space on its new 190-ft. tower, peeking over the treetops north of town along Mine Road.

Cellular service is just part of the news these days. Our next newsletter will have updates for one and all. Please send any items you’d like to share to We’ll sort through them all, collecting, condensing, and clarifying to the best of our ability, hoping to save time for busy readers who, even though a good many of them live elsewhere in the world, nevertheless seem to enjoy reading about life in Mt. Gretna.

We’ll also report on a colorful assortment of other news --- including plans for re-nourishing the forest at Governor Dick Park and rearranging the 2005 season at Gretna Theater. (Revised offerings for the Playhouse include “Driving Miss Daisy,” “A Grand Night for Singing,” Gaslight,” “The Fantasticks,” and a first area performance of the Tammy Wynette musical, “Stand By Your Man.”)

Then, just around the corner, there’s Grundonmobile Day. Max Hunsicker says he’s working on getting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir here for the festivities. “If they can't make it, there’s a Polka Band from Wilkes Barre that has had their eye on the gig, and I think we can get them. As for dignitaries, the Pope's people should be getting back to me soon, and I'm pretty confident we should be able to get one of the guys from Milli Vanilli, or perhaps Ashley Simpson to come lip sync the national anthem.” Don’t want to miss it? Just show up in back of the post office next Saturday, Feb. 26, around 10 a.m.

As for our suggestion for a live video glimpse of Mt. Gretna, like the stately view of Bestor Square in Chautauqua, N.Y. (see Forget it. Many people liked it, but just as many others said our idea for a fund-raiser sounded like it came off the planet Pluto. More reasons to scuttle the notion than we ever dreamed of, not the least of which was our favorite: “When I come over the mountaintop, I like to slip back into 1943 and leave technology behind.”

Thanks for continuing to circulate this letter to others without links to the Internet, although that number is shrinking. Some 70 million American adults now tap into their computers for e-mail messages every day (a 37 percent jump since Mt. Gretna's E-Mail Newsletter began four years ago).

So send us your news, your ideas, and your questions. We look forward, as always, to hearing from all Mt. Gretnans --- those who live here year ‘round, those who come early and often each summer, and those who’d like to.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

FINALLY. . . A note both special and sad: Readers everywhere mourn the passing Feb. 7 of teacher, musician and composer Rodney S. Miller, 49. Services conducted for him at Lebanon Valley College’s Chapel last week were filled to overflowing, a moving tribute to one of this community’s most talented and best-loved citizens, admired by students, neighbors, and friends too numerous to count. “In our hearts he is irreplaceable,” said one. “He touched many lives at many levels,” said another. He will be missed, surely more than this gentle, self-effacing man ever could have himself imagined.