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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 46 April 5, 2005


Even a mild winter is best when it’s finally over. That’s the impression we get from most Mt. Gretnans we talk to. . . folks whose affinity for ice, cold and snow ranks somewhere between going to the dentist and filing an income tax return.

So with spring officially here, what are Mt. Gretnans up to? Picking up. Fixing up. And looking up. . . to the coming of summer, to a time when nearly all the cottages return to full occupancy, and when plays, music and art fill the air.

Getting underway are plans for another grand entry to the summer season --- starting with a communitywide porch sale, triathlon and Summer Premiere all on the same day (May 28). Also the planting of flowers and the return of flower ladies who spread colorful reminders of sunshine and good cheer, even on days when the weather doesn’t. And a glimmering of hope that our store will eventually reopen, returning to us all a center of commerce for everyday needs as well as pizza and other Italian specialties.

All of which we report in this issue, plus items to bring everyone up to date: First, there’s an account you simply won’t want to miss. It’s too big to fold into this single e-mail dispatch, so we hope you’ll link to Max Hunsicker’s account of what happened on Grundonmobile Day. Log onto and click “My Fair Vulture. Or, I Could Have Pooped All Night,” in which Max reveals just how the Great Poobah came to divine the end of winter just past.

Also in this issue you’ll find a summary of lessons learned from the fire that swept through the lakeside home of Willie Chase on one terrifying afternoon last month. Experts at the scene tell us it was too far along by the time a South Londonderry policeman on routine patrol discovered the fire. Tanker trucks got water to the site quickly. And an improved water system capable of pumping up to 1,200 gallons a minute through a single hydrant kept the trucks filled, ready and waiting so firefighters never ran short of water. But the home was destroyed. (See “What The Fire Taught,” below).

Finally there’s the cavalcade of events that herald the coming of a new season at Mt. Gretna. They remind us all that volunteers are the lifeblood of this community. That energy and creativity abound here. And that what makes ours one of those ‘Great Places to Live’ are the dreams, hopes and goodwill of our people.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Damian Acquino and his dad aren’t giving up on that pizza emporium, despite lengthy delays they’ve met in getting regulatory agency approvals. Damian says “everything’s working out, but it’s going to take some time, probably another two or three months” before they’ll open for business.

[] Mt. Gretna borough’s Large Item Collection Day, seemingly more eagerly awaited than Christmas, has been set. Some call it “The Great Community Exchange,” when neighbors swap junk with neighbors. Whatever you call it, mark it on your calendar: This year, it’s June 13.

[] The borough’s leaf and brush pickups begin May 9, with another collection starting June 6. Heights pickups aren’t yet scheduled. Campmeeting supervisor Merv Lenz picks up leaves and branches (separate piles, please) whenever residents set them out. South Londonderry Twp. provides no leaf collection services.

[] Several Mt. Gretnans will compete in an approximately two-hour road rally that’ll start here Apr. 30. Rally routes lead to a mystery location, barbecue lunch and music. A $50 team fee benefits Bridge of Hope’s homeless mothers. Entry deadline: Apr. 15. Details: (717) 389-0296; e-mail

[] May 28th Summer Premiere co-organizer Janice Balmer ( needs volunteers to make desserts (delivered by 2:30 p.m., please). Also cleaner-uppers to stick around a half-hour or so after the event to get the Community Building ready for a private engagement the next day.

[] Le Sorelle Café resumes summer hours (8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday) Memorial Day, with private party dinners on weekends. Reservations for that Apr. 9 “Think Spring” dinner are nearly filled, says Stephanie Lamont. The café currently offers breakfast and lunch, Friday-Sunday. Details: 964-3771 or

[] What fetching design have Joe Macsisak and Tom Rowe dreamed up for Mt. Gretna’s T-shirts this year? They’re Sphinx-like. But Gift Shop doyenne Reenie Macsisak does say they’re adding golf shirts this year --- and opening weekends starting May 7, then daily after Memorial Day.

[] Artist applications are up slightly this year, with entries from Israel and Germany, but, perhaps mirroring national trends, they’re down from a peak about eight years ago, says art show director Linda Bell. “Yet we’re hearing from artists we’ve never heard from before,” she says.

[] Promising more to come, Chautauqua’s summer program planners say digital photography, a five-part series on ancient civilizations, biblical staged play-readings, and a Victorian tea party are already on tap this year. Also: Friday travelogues, stained glass classes, plus three programs with Mt. Gretna’s historical society.

[] Shirley Trimmer, one of those rare native Floridians who loves snow skiing, took lessons this year from Olympic gold medal winner Dianne Roffe. Now back down to earth, Shirley’s planning Cornwall Police’s yard sale for needy families, probably in May. Items to donate? Call 274-2071.

[] Art show judges will make their selections Apr. 16. Judges change each year to keep the show fresh. This year they include two area residents with backgrounds in design but not fine arts degrees, a Lancaster artist, and a jeweler who is also from Lancaster.

[] Bill Gentile says Benatec Associates’ 1999 environmental study of Governor Dick Park may be helpful to readers. Funded by Bill’s, the study analyzed erosion and other problems, suggesting possible solutions. Copies are available at Lebanon Valley Community College, or contact Bill (964-1836;

[] High school seniors must apply by Apr. 15 for those new scholarships the Arts Council is offering for the first time this year. Four $500 awards are available to Lebanon students who’ll major in literature, theater, visual arts or music. See

[] A Carolyn Hartman original appears on this year’s Summer Events calendar cover and will also be offered at the Summer Premiere and Auction May 28. The annual gala, enveloped this year in an art barn theme with wine and appetizers, is one of everybody’s favorites.

[] Previews of other artwork up for sale at this year’s Premiere (starting at 4:00 p.m. at the Community Building) appear at Artists at the 2004 Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show donated many of the works.

[] Former Mt. Gretna Inn owner Bill Cook, convinced that learning new things is key to keeping the brain nimble, now relishes life as a Realtor in Palm Springs, Calif. He welcomes calls from Mt. Gretnans at (760) 202-1212, [cell phone: (760) 567-7831]; e-mail BCOOK@WINDERMERE.COM.

[] Nationally recognized potter Cynthia Bringle presents a throwing demonstration Apr. 9 in Lebanon Valley College’s Lynch Building, 4:30-6:30 p.m. It’s part of Howard and Shelby Applegate’s Women Artists Lecture Series. Weaver and fiber artist Edwina Bringle will join her sister for the 7:00 p.m. lecture.

[] The historical society says generous contributions from residents and nonresidents helped recover everything on their priority list at that auction of national guard artifacts last month. Society president Fred Buch says donations even enabled them to buy several nonmilitary items important to Mt. Gretna’s history.

[] Reservations are filling up Mt. Gretna Heights’ Community Building calendar. Reserved so far: May 14 and 21, June 11, 18 (Heights meeting and potluck lunch), Aug. 6 (house tour), Aug. 13, and Oct. 1. Planning a wedding, class, reunion, or party? Call Dick Steinhauer, 964-2362.

[] Oral historians will soon begin recording Mt. Gretna memories. Have recollections you can share? Want to recommend an interviewee? Like to attend one of Howard Applegate’s oral history training sessions for volunteer interviewers? Contact Jack Anderson (964-1975; e-mail:

[] With the final two homesites scheduled for construction this year, Timber Bridge homeowners expect their association soon will be officially turned over to residents. Vice president David Lillenstein says neighbors remain vigilant after a suspicious car recently showed up in a driveway at 4:30 a.m.

[] Rail-Trail fundraisers coming up: a yard sale (with trail wagon rides, too) at Lawn Fire Co. Apr. 30. Also, a trail walk starting at 1:00 p.m. in Cornwall May 1, to begin Gretna-Lebanon County Workout Week. (See the Harrisburg Patriot’s latest trail article):

[] It’s hard to say which will be more widely admired at the fire company’s May 7 block shoot --- contestants’ marksmanship or Alice McKeone’s legendary ham and bean soup. Jot it on your calendar. Our verdict: Shooters’ skills waver, but Alice’s soup never does.

Gretna Theater’s new managing director Rick Voight will oversee operations this year as the season opens with “Driving Miss Daisy” June 14. Other offerings that artistic director Will Stutts plans this year include “A Grand Night for Singing,” “Gaslight,” “The Fantasticks,” and “Stand By Your Man.”

Rick’s no stranger to Gretna Playhouse. A stage veteran with more than 100 plays to his credit, he appeared here last season in “Amadeus” and in a 1996 production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” His wife Debbie, a singer and actress, also performed here last season. Rick’s also accumulated more than 30 years’ experience in nonprofit management at a variety of posts, including Pennsylvania Partners, Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities, the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs and the state’s department of education.


Mary Hernley, who’s spent nearly half her 70 summers selling flowers along Route 117, will be back at her usual post this year. “Maybe by the fourth Saturday in April if it warms up,” she says.

Mary and husband Peter returned in February from another trip to Indonesia, where her daughter and son-in-law, a missionary pilot ferrying medicines to remote places, live with their children.

All were safe and well, reports Mary, except for the gladiola bulbs she’d planted there last year. “They didn’t do well in that climate.” She hopes they’ll have better luck with the sweet potatoes that were starting to grow shoots as Mary and Peter were packing up for the return trip to their 150-acre farm in Manheim. That farm has been in the Hernley family for more than two centuries. (A sheepskin deed hanging on the wall is signed in script by Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of William.)

What’s on tap for this year’s flower crop here? Mary has great hopes for a 10-color zinnia called “Cherry and Ivory Swizzle.” She’s also nurturing "bunny tails, digitalis, fennel, sweet peas (they grew so well last year, so I’m trying them again), phlox, Alaska Shasta Daisy, rudbeckia, Russian Statis, edelweiss, some new sunflower varieties and new colors of some old favorite cut flowers." Some of the tiny seeds, says Mary, are as fine as dust.

“But just because I’m trying them doesn’t guarantee I’ll succeed,” she warns. “So don't get your hopes too high.”

Yet hopes, smiles and good cheer are what Mary’s been selling successfully for more than 30 years. And what’s she’s harvested, year after year, are appreciative calls, visits and letters from missionaries around the world who benefit from the profits of her summertime sales along Route 117.

Gretna Music needs additional volunteers as it takes on new responsibilities this year for running the concession stand for all Playhouse events --- including plays, Cicada performances as well as its own jazz and chamber music concerts.

Former Mt. Gretnans Bruce and Trish Myers, (717) 566-0838; e-mail:, are helping Gretna Music’s Carl Kane coordinate volunteer scheduling. Volunteers can also sign up this month on Saturday mornings outside the post office.

Among positions to be filled: Concession managers (“lots of them”) who’ll be needed at each performance to supervise, create cash reports and close up the stand; cleaning teams to handle cleanup chores for about 45 minutes each week; and two or three stocking managers who’ll remind Gretna Music staffers when it’s time to restock candy, sodas and other supplies (a job that takes about 15 minutes a day).

Gretna Music executive director Michael Murray (361-1508; e-mail: says they have volunteer ushers for most chamber music and jazz concerts but keep a list of names in reserve. Staffers can always use help in the box office, he adds.


8 Birds recalled in a memory by art show co-founder and former Mt. Gretnan Reed Dixon (, who once ran the “We Tree Gallery” where the gift shop now operates.
Reed, the Campmeeting’s Barry Brant and a friend named Mike Schott kept the gallery open only one season. Profits weren’t great, but memories were priceless.
He remembers one Saturday when a man and his wife walked into the shop. “They began looking at one of my paintings, five seagulls sitting on some rocks. The price was only $40. Turning to his wife, the man said, ‘Not bad. Eight bucks a bird.’”
“Made my day, I’ll tell you,” says Reed.

30 Years it may take to carry out Governor Dick’s forest stewardship plan proposed by forester Barry Rose. The park’s directors will review Barry’s 50-page report at their regular board meeting Apr. 21 and make copies available (at reproduction cost) to the public. But they don’t intend to decide anything then.
A special public meeting, probably sometime in May, will review the plan’s suggestions as well as ideas the board is gathering from a consulting botanist, conservationist, Department of Natural Resources forester, wildlife biologist and ecologist. That session will be widely advertised, says the park’s Carol McLaughlin. She adds that it may take three decades to carry out whatever ideas are adopted. “Just because we adopt a plan doesn’t mean we intend to do everything that’s in the plan.”

30 Years that women’s tennis tournaments were a part of Mt. Gretna life. With the retirement of tournament director Dan Moyer, who’s been running the event since 1992, the tournaments are now history. Dan says they hit a peak in 1994, when 53 matches --- some lasting well past midnight --- took place on just two courts over seven days. Player and spectator participation started a gradual decline about five years ago, he says, with only 24 matches (doubles and mixed doubles, but no singles entries) last year.
The name that stands out in Dan’s memory: 13-year-old Vinny Seiverling of Hershey, winner of the singles event in 1994. Other prominent players were Joy Graeff and Nancy Opilo, consistent champions in all events.
The Mt. Gretna men’s tournament, started in 1968 by the late Bob Minnich, continues, opening this year July 23. Joan Lehman and Jan Brandt will be there, too, with soups, food and desserts even nontennis fans can’t resist.

600 Entrants (“maybe more,” says organizer Chris Kaag) expected in that May 28 triathlon here to benefit research into neurodegenerative disorders. Chris says 150 competitors have already signed up (see Most questions he’s getting these days are from first-timers who’ve never done a swim/run/bike event before.
Hit by the disease himself seven years ago at age 21, Chris plans to get this year’s race off an hour earlier, hoping to ease traffic jams on Route 117. “I welcome anyone from the area who’d like to come out and join us for, hopefully, another sunny day,” he says. Last year’s event attracted 470 racers and raised over $16,500.


[] Is there a reason, when the fire company’s siren sounds, it’s always in threes? My poor dog thinks it’s about over, only to find it needs to go two more times, then one more...well you get the picture. If you have an answer I could share with my canine companion, I’d appreciate it!

<> “Good question,” says fire chief Ben Sutcliffe. “All fire sirens are programmed
to run for a particular length of time, and that can’t be changed. Our siren goes up and down three times. Other sirens repeat five to seven times. Once a siren hits a steady pitch and stays there, it looses its effectiveness in getting the attention of firefighters or citizens. It’s the same way a siren works in police cars and fire trucks. They usually have three modes (yelp, wail, warble) and never keep a steady pitch because they’d lose their attention-getting effectiveness. The same principle applies for the fire company.”

[] Do you know of plumbers that specialize in opening cottages (turning on the water and gas). Also, do you know of anyone who cleans roofs of leaves in the spring?

<> We asked Campmeeting supervisor Merv Lenz, who says that although local handymen can sometimes help with roofs that aren’t too steep or in poor shape, the job of cleaning rooftops is probably best left to professional roofers, who have both insurance and years of experience. As for plumbers? Well, L&T Plumbing (273-7088) and James K. Allwein Plumbing (272-1986) are among the names most familiar to Mt. Gretna cottage owners.

[] I’m looking for a propane stove with a wood-burning stove that’s either attached or will stand alongside it. Any ideas where I might find one?

<> We haven’t the foggiest idea of where you’d find something like that. But chances are one of our multitalented, all-knowing readers around the world surely will. We’ll ask them to contact you at

[] Do you know who to contact for volunteering at the information booth, ushering, etc.? Because of moving, I haven’t done it for a few years. But now I’m back and would be interested this year.

<> First, take a look at the concession stand opportunities (“Like People, Plays & Music?”) cited above.
For the art show, Linda Bell ( passes along all volunteer inquiries to her committee chairmen.
Sue Lohr (273-6674 or 964-2225) welcomes workers with willing hands, hearts and gloves to help with area gardening and beautification projects.
Deborah Hurst (964-3481; coordinates volunteers for the Information Center or Library. Open the first Friday in June until the Sunday before Labor Day, the Information Center operates Fridays 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m, Saturdays and Sundays 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., with other hours as volunteers are available. Mt. Gretna's Library is open Tuesdays Noon-2:00 p.m., Wednesdays-Fridays 10:00 a.m.-Noon, and Saturdays 9:00-11:00 a.m.


Lessons shared with us from those who fought the Mar. 23 fire along Lakeside Drive:

1. Smoke detectors that automatically dial the fire department may be among the best investment homeowners can make. Especially in neighborhoods lacking fire hydrants (including Timber Hills, Timber Bridge, and Conewago Hills --- as well as Spring Hill Acres, Lawn and Colebrook).

2. Skilled crews got water to the burning structure fast. Mt. Gretna’s 1,800-gallon tanker
was first on the scene, with its 500-gallon-per-minute pump spraying water on the fire through hoses that can extend several hundred feet. Others quickly followed, bringing about 20,000 of the more than 100,000 gallons of water eventually used. “Water supply wasn’t an issue,” says Scott Galbraith, South Londonderry’s assistant manager and a Mt. Gretna fire company assistant chief who directed water command operations. “This fire simply had a huge head start before it was discovered. That’s the long and short of it.” He adds that it took less than four minutes to set up and begin filling the tanker relays from a hydrant at the Playhouse parking lot.
South Londonderry Twp. supervisor Dave Turner, himself a volunteer fireman for over 25 years, agrees. “One witness said flames were coming through the roof before anyone got there. Had the lake been at normal levels, the time it’d have taken with limited daytime manpower to draft water, drop supply lines from the other side, and run them to the scene. . . wouldn’t have been significantly different from setting up the tankers,” he says.
Bill Care, activating the 260,000-gallon reservoir’s secondary pump as part of an established emergency response plan to boost water pressure and volume, says “the home appeared to be fully involved at the time a patrolling officer placed the fire call.” He praised all firefighters, including the knowledgeable eight-man team from Manheim that regulated water flow to the tankers.

3. Mt. Gretna’s continuing investment (now at $615,000) to upgrade its water system over the past 20 years paid off, delivering water from a single hydrant faster than firefighters could use it. “At no time did we run out of water,” chiefs fighting the blaze told Scott. (The borough’s system now supplies water at up to 1,200 gallons per minute, a 480 percent increase from capacities available in the mid-1980s.) That kept the tanker relays filled with room to spare.

4. A newspaper’s report suggesting that firefighters may have been hampered because the lake had been drained was misleading. “It didn’t take any longer to get water to that fire from the hydrant then it would have from the lake,” says Mt. Gretna fire chief Ben Sutcliffe. “Either way, the water would have been transported, and there would have been no time difference. Hydrants in the area would insure the water could be there quicker and cut down on the time required to fight the fire. But since there are no hydrants, the next best option was to transport the water. The lake being drained did not affect the water supply to the fire.”

5. Nearly 100 firefighters from 19 different companies helped enormously. Scott, who took command of water delivery to the tankers, says fire chiefs fighting the blaze praised the water supply operations, affirming that not once had they run out of water. In fact, says Dave, “full tankers were lined up waiting to dump water to a port-a-tank. There was more water there than could be used efficiently.”

Residents and community officials will want to review the fire’s lessons. Several have wondered if fire hydrants should be placed throughout the three or four miles of roadways in Mt. Gretna’s lakeside neighborhoods. (At around $40 a foot, the estimated installed cost of that project would be approximately $600,000 to $800,000.) Meanwhile, telephone-linked smoke detectors, homeowner vigilance and steps to eliminate fire hazards seem the best immediate steps anyone can take.

Kindest regards,
Roger Groce

P. S. A reminder that, thanks to Keith and Robin Volker of the Mt. Gretna Inn, you’ll find back issues of this newsletter posted on the Web at Thanks to all who kindly circulate the Mt. Gretna Newsletter to friends and family both near and far, especially those lacking links to the Internet. And continuing thanks to the many friends and neighbors who send us their news, answer our questions, and keep an aging editor in touch with the thoughts, cares and concerns of an uncommonly gracious, able community --- with energy, imagination and dedication enough to satisfy any ten of similar size.


{::} 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 give 10 percent of your bill to our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-4500.

{::} 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: