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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 47 May 2, 2005

Commenting on our brief item last month about Mt. Gretna’s “flower lady,” a reader wrote, “Just reading about Mrs. Hernley makes me think that things really are okay in the world.” A Desiderata-like reminder, perhaps, that whether it’s clear to us, the universe --- or Mt. Gretna’s part of it anyway --- probably is unfolding as it should.

Indeed, as the daffodils unfolded this spring, so too in mid-April did the little tent over Mary Hernley’s flower stand along Route 117, at her usual weekend spot. Mary and Marian Brubaker (a Thursday afternoon regular) have been helping make fresh-cut flowers a symbol of civility and gracious Mt. Gretna living for more than three decades. Away briefly last week for a church mission conference, Mary intends to return this Mother’s Day weekend, “the Lord willing, and if we have enough flowers blooming.”

Blooming already is another Mt. Gretna season that just can’t wait to get started. About 80 sports cars, drivers and navigators rolled into town last Saturday, part of a fund-raising road rally that left from the Chautauqua parking lot after first filling up with sticky buns and coffee at Le Sorelle. More events are on the way this month. Topping them all off will be that big Summer Premiere on May 28, a day that’ll start with some 600 triathloners swarming into town from across the U.S.A., joined by maybe 300 bargain-hunters seeking treasures in that second annual communitywide porch sale.

The triathlon may be among the season’s most remarkable success stories. Organizer Chris Kaag, the 28-year-old victim crippled by a neurodegenerative disorder whose researchers will benefit from race proceeds, is starting the event at 8:30 a.m., an hour earlier than last year, to ease traffic congestion. “I learned a lot last year. And with some preventive measures, we hope to do better this year,” he says. Chris expects about 600 contestants, including some from California, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Massachusetts who’ve already registered.

“It’s unbelievable,” says Chris, whose optimistic spirit belies his affliction. “Last year we had around 400. Everybody had good things to say about it. The people, the attitude, the vibe of the day were incredible. It could grow larger, but I’m contemplating putting a cap on the 600 mark because I don’t want to lose that ‘small event’ feel. I just hope that people will understand that we’re going to make some noise.” And, in the process, also raise money for a worthy cause.

The event (see raised $16,500 last year for the Myelin Project ( An outdoor advertising company is donating billboards again this year, and Lancaster’s Intelligencer Printing is again donating the brochures. “Everything’s going well,” says the enterprising young man from Reading, Pa., whose life, attitude and demeanor echo Vince Lombardi’s credo, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, but whether you get back up.”

Echoing a volunteer credo that never seems to leave Mt. Gretnans, even when they leave Mt. Gretna, is the peripatetic Evelyn Duncan. Rolling along a highway somewhere in New Mexico last week, Evelyn reported from her motorhome that she’ll return here around mid-July, resuming volunteer duties at the Playhouse and helping out at the church as usual.

And Summer Premiere organizer Janice Balmer, herself an energized volunteer, is wrapping up plans for the grand season-opener May 28. Among other things, the annual gala helps pay for Mt. Gretna’s Summer Arts Calendar. Starting at 4:00 p.m., the premiere will offer food, wine and auction artwork (including Carolyn Hartman’s original artwork for the 2005 calendar cover and Eleanor Sarabia’s model of Mt. Gretna’s first post office; see Janice (964-3124; Email:, who needs dessert-makers (deliver the goods by 2:30 p.m., please), also hopes a few folks will stick around after the event to help get the Hall of Philosophy ready for an engagement that’s scheduled the next day.

And that Summer Premiere. . . in case you’re wondering: It’s for EVERYBODY. . . and we mean everybody in all seven Mt. Gretna neighborhoods. Others, too. In fact, everyone who enjoys good food, friendly folks, and a chance to say, “Welcome back, friends. It’s nice to see you again.”

Bargain-hunters at Mt. Gretna’s second annual communitywide porch sale will sweep through the Campmeeting and Chautauqua grounds starting at 8:00 a.m. May 28. (Call 964-1830 by May 21 to list your porch, at no charge, on that map they’ll hand out to visitors.)

Campmeeting planners say there’ll be barbecued chicken dinners, a book sale at the library, and refreshments at the Tabernacle. They’re also setting up a take-what-you-want, pay-what-you-want flea market, with proceeds going to the Heritage Festival, Mt. Gretna’s fire company, and the church.

Bruce Gettle says 45 Campmeeting cottage owners took part last year, and more than 300 shoppers munched those $5 chicken dinners. Just how many will turn out this year is anybody’s guess. But advertising, both paid and word-of-mouth from last year’s visitors, should boost the turnout.

The Chautauqua Foundation is setting up a table next to Le Sorelle, and accepting donated items between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Friday and until 7:30 a.m. Saturday. By two o’clock Saturday afternoon, however, the curtain will come down. . . bringing an end (at least until next year) to this newest Mt. Gretna tradition.

Leading the way to a grand fundraising kickoff for Gretna Theater’s 2005 season next month will be artistic director Will Stutts.

Patrons gathering at the Timbers June 3 will see the engaging, delightfully enigmatic, and always entertaining Mr. Stutts reprise his celebrated “Noel Coward At The Café De Paris,” a $75 fund-raiser to help get the season started.

What’s up for Gretna Theater's main stage productions at the Playhouse? The regular season now seems set. It starts June 14 with “Greater Tuna,” and continues through Sept. 2 with “A Grand Night For Singing,” “Gaslight (Angel Street),” “The Fantasticks” and “Stand By Your Man, The Tammy Wynette Story.” Newly appointed managing director Rick Voight (himself an actor, seen here last year in “Amadeus”) says they’re also planning four Monday night shows and four shows on Saturdays for children.

Yes, they’ll need everybody’s help at the Playhouse concession stand this year. Even though they now live in Hershey, former Mt. Gretnans Bruce and Trish Myers, (717) 566-0838; Email:, are helping coordinate volunteer scheduling, including those Saturday morning signups outside the post office. “We really look forward to Saturday mornings at the post office. Unfortunately, so does Mother Nature,” says Trish, one of the most dedicated volunteers ever to reside here. Since many April Saturdays were rain-soaked, they’ll continue the weekly signups this month.

As local newspapers have widely reported, that long-awaited public discussion of the plan to revitalize the Governor Dick forest will begin at 7:15 p.m. May 31.

Forester Barry Rose, who devised the plan to cope with thorny issues such as invasive plants, overpopulated deer and overly dense forests, will lead a 6:00 p.m. tour of areas mainly affected. Copies of his report are on sale ($5) at the Cornwall Township building, 73 South Zinns Mill Road; (272-9841).

Barry, a 1986 Penn State forestry graduate, says that deer have devoured most of the native plants on Governor Dick’s 1,100 acres. Healthy forests that size can support only about 20 to 35 deer. In an interview last year, he estimated Governor Dick’s deer population at more than 100. Now trying to get a more accurate count of both deer and plants, one volunteer expressed surprise last week that so far he hasn’t discovered even a single new oak seedling.

Barry stresses that restoring the forest’s delicate balance will be neither easy nor quick. Solutions include temporary fences to keep deer out of designated areas, allowing natural plants to mature. It’s the first step in a solution requiring decades --- “a time span most people are unaccustomed to thinking about,” he acknowledged.

Yet long-term thinking is exactly what’s needed, Barry says. “It’s impossible to do nothing and expect forests will carry on as they always have.” His report seems to be gradually changing the minds of some who formerly opposed tree removals. Several admitted they’d been unaware of the park’s declining condition, especially in areas not readily seen from the trails. They favor the proposal to replant trees, such as American Chestnuts, that once were a part of the original forest.

Not everyone agrees that it’s the best plan however, some longtime Mt. Gretna residents among them. Fred Schaeffer, for example, believes the proposal neither adheres to donor Clarence Schock’s original vision nor to what’s best for the forest itself. He says the plan reflects the board’s “need to support the approximately $500,000 Nature Center they built” and invites others to contact him ( to see how the new plan compares with Schock’s original deed. “Governor Dick’s natural wooded area is about to be chain-sawed and transformed into another county-owned park,” he says.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)
[] Some come for the contest. Others for the camaraderie. But EVERYBODY comes for Alice McKeone’s ham and bean soup. It’ll be waiting at the fire company’s spring block shoot, beginning Saturday (May 7) at Noon.

[] That yard sale for needy families at Christmas begins May 7. (Rain date: May 14). Cornwall Police secretary Shirley Trimmer (274-2071) says Mt. Gretnans are among the world’s most generous people, giving items last year that helped raise over $500 for clothing, toys and fuel.

[] Yes, there’s a symbolic rocker on Mt. Gretna’s 2005 T-shirt. . . also a forest scene. Reenie Macsisak says “it’s different, eye-catching,” and one of this season’s gift shop surprises. Others include Mt. Gretna pottery and Charlotte Valentine’s new book, “Buried Treasure of Mt. Gretna.”

[] Over half the tables are already reserved for August 27’s Big Band party at the lake. Ceylon and Karen Leitzel say everyone’s invited to bring along snacks, nonalcoholic drinks, even their own wineglasses. A local vineyard will sell wine onsite. Tickets ($18): 964-1829.

[] Mt. Gretna Fire Company’s Cookbook, topping the best-seller list here a few years ago, is reprinted by popular demand. “Remember When” Gift Shop will have copies, or order by mail ($15, including shipping costs) from: Cookbooks, P. O. Box 505, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.

[] Record-holder for the most consecutive appearances in Mt. Gretna’s art show: Eva Bender, who took part in every show since it began 30 years ago. She and fellow Mt. Gretnan Barbara Fishman, also a perennial participant, have retired this year as show exhibitors.

[] Last month’s best-read article: Max Hunsicker’s engrossing tale of how the Grundonmobile won its place alongside Punxsutawney Phil as a forecaster of winter’s end. Says Dorothy Gray, “I didn’t realize we had a sacred cow in our midst.” See “My Fair Vulture,” online at

[] That speed-flashing radar sign along Route 117, encouraging motorists to slow down, will return this year, but we’ll have to wait until PennDOT releases it from duty in Franklin County. “All the more reason we should have one of our own,” says Chief Harris.

[] Elisabeth von Trapp is returning to Mt. Gretna, but not this year. Her third appearance is set for July 15, 2006. At the Tabernacle last summer, she attracted 750. (Biggest Tabernacle audience ever? No. In the 1980s, 1,100 worshipers flocked to one religious service.)

[] Our firefighters invite everyone to join them May 15 in honoring Albert F. “Cappy” Standish, Mt. Gretna’s fire chief for nearly 20 years before his death exactly two years ago. They’ll dedicate their picnic grove and new fire engine in his memory at 1:00 p.m.

[] Advertising space sales for Gretna Theater’s summer program continue through mid-May. Program ad manager Ben Wiley (, 964-3849), offering to fax or Email space contracts, says May 15 is the deadline for $200 (quarter-page), $325 (half-page) and $600 (full-page) ads.

[] Deb Vollmar (, 964-1871) encourages participants and sponsors to support her team in a ‘round-the-clock relay to walk, run and raise money for the American Cancer Society June 10-11. A Friday evening Luminaria ceremony will honor cancer survivors and victims.

[] “Summer at the Tabernacle” kicks off with Andy Roberts’ jazz service June 26. Other highlights: the New Holland Band July 3, a handbell festival Aug. 6, Bob Troxell’s “Lively Goin’ to Church Music” Aug. 14, Susquehanna Chorale Aug. 21, and the Lancaster Brass Aug. 28.

[] Yoga classes start June 6 at the Heights Community Building. Instructor Pam Willeman (964- 0401; welcomes beginners and offers “energizing yoga postures, breath work and mindfulness” with “intensity to match participants’ skill levels.” Cost: $10 per class. Bring a yoga mat.

[] Philhaven Hospital (with over 600 staffers, the Mt. Gretna area’s largest employer) will soon have a new $400,000 building exclusively for Amish patients. Old Order church members are erecting and donating the 7,800 sq. ft. structure; they’ll also provide meals and housekeeping services for residents.

[] A potluck supper for Heights residents June 18 at 6:00 p.m. follows their annual meeting earlier in the day (at 10:00). Both events take place at the community building, also available throughout the summer for weddings, private parties, and classes, says Dick Steinhauer, 964-2362.

[] Large Item Pick-Up Day is now officially June 20. Following quaint custom, residents typically stroll Mt. Gretna borough streets on Saturday and Sunday, hauling home treasures neighbors intended to toss out on Monday. Part of what smiling Bill Care calls “The Great Community Exchange Day.”

[] Mt. Gretna borough’s leaf pickups began this week; a second sweep’s scheduled June 6. Brush pickups start May 9 and June 13. Campmeeting folks can set their leaves and brush out any time. Heights’ collections are finished; none are scheduled for residents in South Londonderry.

[] Gretna Music’s summer intern is Elizabethtown sophomore Carrie Houtz. She's a music and professional writing major at the college, where Gretna Music (now noting its 30th anniversary) has been headquartered for the past decade.

6 Mt. Gretna artists displaying their works in that gala May 22 garden party (with wines, classical music and originals from over 40 artists) at Brasenhill: Shelby Applegate, Eva Bender, Barbara Fishman, Madelaine Gray, Larry Lombardo and Peggy Shannon. The $25 admission fee benefits Lebanon Family Health Services. Reservations: 273-6741.

6 Wedding guests, all linked to Mt. Gretna, attending a wedding in Beaufort, S.C. last month, held outdoors beneath a centuries-old live oak tree shrouded in Spanish moss, on an island once owned by the bride’s great-great-great-great-grandfather. (The bride? Cherington Shucker, daughter of Furman University vice president Harry Shucker. As as a youngster, Harry grew up here in the 1950s in the cottage now owned by Dr. Vannucci. And those Mt. Gretna-connected guests? Dale Grundon, Ginny Minnich, Pete and Laura Lee Gebhard and Dick and Renee Hoffman.) See

9 Years the Campmeeting’s Heritage Festival has been running at the Tabernacle. This year’s 7:30 p.m. series opens June 18 with The Pastimes, a doo-wop group, after the fire company’s classic car show. Also on tap: The Shuey Brothers’ bluegrass music July 2, Tom Meredith speaking on the Campmeeting’s early days July 16, and the Lebanon Big Swing Band July 30. No admission is charged, but there’s a freewill offering at each show.

31 States represented by artists applying for admission to this year’s Mt. Gretna art show. Five came from California and another from the state of Washington. Outside the U.S. were two applicants from Israel, one from Canada and another from Germany. The judges approved 250 of this year’s 531 applicants. Also winning automatic approval were the 30 winners of last year’s Judges’ Choice awards. Linda Bell says 130 entries this year were from first-time applicants; about 75 others came from artists not heard from in the past four years.

45 Years the Timbers has been serving dinner patrons. This summer’s musical revue, “Jump In,” will be the 30th in the Briody family’s dinner theater series, and 11-year-old Nicole Roberts says the lively two-act musical (with arrangements by her dad, Timbers' musical director Andy Roberts) will run July 12 through Sept. 3 and “promises to have audiences jumping in their seats.” If Nicole says it, you can bank on it! Reservations: 964-3601.

1000s The number of individual items (everything from miniature magazines and rolls of toilet tissue to electrically lighted candles and roof slates made from popsicle sticks) in Eleanor Sarabia’s detailed scale model of Mt. Gretna’s original post office. Local newspapers and TV stations have been interviewing the modest Eleanor, now taken aback by her sudden celebrity. Her latest creation goes up for auction at the May 28 Summer Premiere. See

1,000 Length (in feet) of that connector trail leading from Lebanon Valley’s Rail Trail down to Timber Road (behind the General Store). With PennDOT approvals now in hand, the $115,000 grant-funded project is going out for bid. Officials say it could be finished by fall.

3,000,000 Cars and trucks passing annually through the turnpike’s Lebanon/Lancaster interchange (exactly 4.9 miles from downtown Mt. Gretna). A $10 million face-lift this summer will add a new bridge for eastbound traffic, a two-story office, and two more toll lanes (from five to seven). Plans also call for a 30-car commuter park-and-ride lot across from the Route 72 entrance.

[] “I wonder how many old-timers remember the plane that crashed into the woods just southwest of the Colebrook ice dam about 1930 or so. I recall seeing wreckage suspended in the trees. It was a ‘rag wing’, typical of the times. But I don’t remember how the pilot fared.”

<> That one really stretched our readers’ memories. Pat Attwood remembers a plane crash near Soldiers Field in the 1950s but can’t recall anything about the 1930s accident. Her older brother does, though. Pete Light vaguely remembers the event and thinks it might have been a military transport plane. But the crash scene was roped off, and he doesn’t recall the crew’s fate. Even our favorite historian Jack Bitner, who says he’s heard about the crash, doesn’t know any details. Does anyone?

[] I used to get the Summer Calendar of Events by mail, but since I’ve moved I don’t know whom to contact to change my address.

<> Dale Grundon replies: Send an address change card to the Mt. Gretna Arts Council, P.O. Box 513, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. The Council currently mails 580 calendars free to anyone with a Mt. Gretna post office box and to about 800 out-of-towners who’ve asked to be included in the annual bulk mailings. Those requesting single copies after May 15 should enclose $1.40, payable to the Arts Council. Dale will add their names to the bulk mail list so they’ll receive the 2006 and subsequent calendars free.
The 2005 calendar, soon to be online at, will be printed before the May 28 Summer Premiere (which helps underwrite the calendar’s printing and mailing costs.) Donations to the Arts Council, a 501(c)3 group, are welcome and tax-deductible.

[] We have a ‘historic rock’ on our property that was carved by a 12th Infantry soldier during the encampment here. I’d estimate that it weighs about a ton, and we’d like to donate it to the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society. Is there a phone number?

<> Society president Fred Buch ( invites prospective donors to leave messages at either his Mt. Gretna number (964-3571) or office (800-242-3901). He says the Society would indeed be interested in examining that inscribed rock.

[] Any word on the fire company’s collectors’ coffee mugs for 2005? I don’t want to make the mistake this year of waiting until their gone!

<> Eleanor Sarabia’s “Heights Community Building” sketch will appear on the fire company’s 2005 coffee mug --- number five in a series that includes Mt. Gretna’s store, Playhouse, Library and Information Center. They’ll soon be available at the Gift Shop, The Hideaway, Playhouse concession stand, Collins Grocery and Le Sorelle. (And Joe Shay (964-1106) recently discovered a handful of (now scarce) mugs from 2002, 2003 and 2004.)

[] Why do they drain the lake each year?

<> As we reported a couple of years ago, the owners drain the lake annually, usually around late March or April, to repair ice damage to the piers and other structures. It's part of a routine maintenance program, one they've followed for years.

Why were borough staffers Joey Wise and Scott Cooling up to their ears (well, knees, anyway) in mud last month (see These able fellows, together with excavating contractor Glen Kresge, were out in the lake while it was drained to do a bit of spring-cleaning. They removed sediment built up around that hydrant installed along the lake’s east side 22 years ago. Overflows from spring’s heavy downpours clogged the hydrant that firefighters sometimes use in emergencies.

Borough chief Bill Care says they hope to install a similar hydrant on the lake’s west side later this year. Who pays for these hydrants? Actually, the people attending Mt. Gretna’s annual art shows. Show funds bought the original hydrant in 1983; Bill hopes funds from this year’s event will pay for a second hydrant that could help feed water to trucks fighting fires in lakeside areas without municipal hydrants.

Unlike hydrants connected directly to municipal water systems, however, these nonpressurized “dry” hydrants require fire engine pumps to suck water out of the lake. But they can become clogged by silt and debris unless people like Joey, Scott and Glen keep after them, installing strainers and replacing valves when necessary. That’s what they were doing at the lake last month. All part of a day’s work in the borough. . . one of those things you’d never know if you didn’t read fascinating yarns like this all the way down to the end.

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 give 10 percent of your bill to the our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-