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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 48 June 3, 2005

Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 48 June 3, 2005
It’s been over a year now. Unquestionably, the most visible void in Mt. Gretna life has been the absence of a store. Nothing has so abruptly altered the lifestyles of Mt. Gretna’s 1,500 year ‘rounders, gradually being joined by another 1,000 or so summer residents who’ll share their fate this season.

Getting a loaf of bread now means getting in the car instead of going for a walk. Wide-ranging choices of nearly a dozen daily newspapers now have dwindled. And Mt. Gretna, where the lyrics of Flatt and Scruggs seldom are heard, nevertheless seems to echo these days that mournful tune, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”

Will the store re-open this summer in its new role as a pizza shop? That’s the question we’re asked most often. Damian Aquino and his dad, despite valiant attempts to satisfy the regulatory hurdles their planned enterprise faces, say they’re still not sure when they’ll be able to open. They’re hoping it could be as early as August. But no one can say, with any measure of precision, exactly when all the approvals needed from regulatory agencies might be granted. Until then, Mt. Gretna again seems destined to suffer through a mostly “storeless summer.”

But the news is not all bleak. Eleanor Sarabia's finely detailed scale model of the original Mt. Gretna post office brought $3,100 last week, setting a new record for the Arts Council’s popular summer premiere auction. More folks than ever turned out for the season-opening gala, signaling a good start for Mt. Gretna’s summer. Chris Kaag’s fund-raising triathlon went off seemingly without a hitch, attracting more than 530 athletes from throughout the country. And the determined folks at Gretna Productions are pursuing with renewed vigor ambitious plans to offset last season’s declines and re-energize Mt. Gretna’s nearly 80-year live outdoor theater tradition.

Traditions, of course, abound in Mt. Gretna. The late Hoagy Hogentogler started one on a New Year’s Day 25 years ago, with an icy leap into the lake that launched Mt. Gretna’s Polar Bear Club and, filmed by an NBC affiliate, quickly spawned imitators nationwide. Max Hunsicker, creator of the Heights’ ubiquitous pink flamingo symbols, added Grundonmobile Day to the list of zany traditions this year (accurately forecasting an early end to winter when buzzard bombers roosting overhead missed their bright yellow target below.) And former Mt. Gretnan Kent Fox introduced that delightful rite of scooping up a freezer full of jiggers, saved from the last day of summer, and serving them to friends by the fireside during the first big snowstorm each winter.

Now comes Thatcher Bornman (a.k.a. Super Pumpkin in Mt. Gretna’s Halloween Parade) with a new tradition. For the past six years, Thatch has been celebrating “Large Item Pickup Day.” That’s the day, of course, when Mt. Gretna borough residents place on the curb anything too large for the regular trash collectors (stoves, refrigerators, long-neglected Nordic Tracks draped in guilt and other good-intentioned relics that languish in attics and basements).

This year, Large Item Pickup Day is June 20. But the day itself is anticlimactic. It’s the scavenging that transpires the weekend before which gives such joy to Thatcher. So on Sunday evening, LIPD-eve it might be called, Thatch rolls out the grill, lights up the natural lump charcoal he favors, and invites everyone to stop by for a hotdog treat with all the trimmings. Everything’s free. It’s a spontaneous celebration. An outpouring of generosity for neighbors, friends and people he’s never met. Thatcher even posts a sign along Route 117, inviting scavengers from near and far to stop by his place at 108 Lancaster Avenue between 6 and 8 p.m.

“I’ve had a real joy doing this,” says Thatcher, a Perry County native who discovered Mt. Gretna about 12 years ago. “I typically go through around 35 hotdogs, plus the sauerkraut. One fellow who comes by each year usually says (while munching a hotdog), ‘See anything you want on my truck? Just take it.' One time I did, a neat storage cubicle with the letters ‘ND,’ perfect for my cousin, a big Notre Dame fan.”

Thatcher, who leads a youth group at Mt. Gretna’s church, says most new scavengers he meets are as much amazed by the stuff people throw out as by the enthusiasm Thatcher himself tosses in --- as well as the obvious pleasure he gets out of it all.

So if you’re strolling along Lancaster Avenue during this “it-only-could-happen-in-Mt.-Gretna” celebration June 19, stop by to see Thatch. You’ll find him out in front of his house, embers glowing and hotdogs roasting on a “perfectly fine old round Weber grill” he discovered right down the street last year, during his own scavenger hunt. “There was absolutely nothing wrong with it,” he says.

So now Thatcher not only celebrates Large Item Pickup Day. He also cooks with one of its treasures.

Nobody can be sure, but the artist whose work probably appears more often in the homes and cottages of Mt. Gretna than any other isn’t a name most people here would know.

Barb Yashinsky is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. She lives in Hershey but loves the “whole different feel of Mt. Gretna, where it’s relaxing and you can just smell the trees and the coolness.”

For the past seven years, she’s created the Mt. Gretna Art Show posters, the latest of which appears at The posters are among Mt. Gretna’s most sought-after collectables. Like to stop in and buy one? They’re now available ($5) at the borough office and Remember When gift shop.

What Barb loves about the poster assignment (besides the link to her favorite destination for Sunday drives, dinners on the Hideaway deck, and frequent trips to the Jigger Shop for a dish of ice-cream) is the freedom she enjoys in creating the posters. “Linda and Mike Bell give me free reign,” she says.

The unrestricted assignment is both a gift and a challenge. With no committee approvals to gather and no one else “putting their two cents in,” Barb’s designs take shape pretty much the way she wants. Sometimes that can be stressful. “When you’re on your own, 'wide open' gives you a bit more stress, and you sometimes want other people’s opinions,” she says. “But I really do enjoy the freedom.”

Her free-spirited impulses this year brought forth a colorful assembly of tiny round symbols (sun, trees, leaves and flowers) suggesting a palette awaiting the touch of an artist’s brush. “It’s almost like painting with a palette from nature,” she says. “That’s part of the feel of the art show itself.”

A former ad agency artist, Barb has worked for the past eight years at Breckert Illustrated Shirts, the Palmyra firm that also produces the art show’s sweatshirts and T-shirts. She enjoys designing with type and “getting type to work in a positive-negative space” but is not, she emphasizes, a cartoonist.

“I usually start thinking about the Mt. Gretna posters after Christmas. They’re one of the more fun things I do because I have such free reign. I can basically come up with anything. Linda and Mike trust me. They give me the assignment, and we go from there.”

And without huge committees, agonizing approvals and endless delays, the operative word is “go”.

Want to see a celestial view of your home? Google’s new beta map website offers a glimpse of Mt. Gretna by satellite. Just click on and type in “Mt. Gretna, Pa. 17064.” (Hint: Route 117 is barely visible, so look first for Soldiers’ Field, then the lake). To pinpoint your exact location, type your street address in the search bar and zoom in. The densely tree-nestled view hints at why those turkey vultures, among others, seem to find our tiny spot of the Earth so appealing.

What’s ahead for roadway improvements in and around Mt. Gretna this summer?

Not much, we’re afraid.

PennDOT’s amiable Lebanon supervisor Dale Good, always mindful of Mt. Gretna’s roadway needs, says that he puts Route 117 near the top of his list of highways needing resurfacing every year. But he’s been doing that “for at least five to ten years, and they keep telling us to sort of band-aid it together.” Right now, he says, most of Lebanon County’s highway construction money is going into the I-81 project.

So will we ever get state roads here permanently repaved rather than perpetually patched? Or embedded reflectors installed to aid aging motorists enroute home from plays and concerts on dark, rainy or foggy nights? Or restore the barrier that once protected cars from skidding into the lake? Or correct other hazards that make state roads here among the area’s ten most dangerous wintertime driving spots? (See "Mt. Gretna Newsletter" No. 43, Jan. 6, 2005.)

Getting legislators’ attention helps, Dale admits. Sen. David Brightbill (350 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120) and State Rep. Mauree Gingrich (412 Irvis Office Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2020) seem sensitive to Mt. Gretna needs, say readers. Others affirm there’s merit and wisdom to the “squeaky-wheel” theory. So maybe it’s time to drop them a line. Otherwise, Mt. Gretna’s roadway future may continue to be bound up in a patchwork of band-aids.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)
[] A June 15 concert honoring Rodney Miller, beloved teacher, musician and Mt. Gretnan who died unexpectedly in February, benefits the student instrument fund established in his honor. Featuring top area musicians and Lebanon High’s jazz band, it begins at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium.

[] Once a rarity even on eBay, the official Mt. Gretna Volunteer Fire Company Cookbook is now back by popular demand at The Hideaway, Collins’ Grocery and Remember When gift shop. Cost: $12. By mail (P.O. Box 505, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064): $15, including shipping.

[] The fire company’s “Dream Machine” car show gets more popular every year. The June 18 show, eighth in the AAA’s annual series, runs from 2 to 6 p.m. Performing at 7 p.m. with music from the 50s and 60s, are “The Pastimes, at the Tabernacle.

[] Eli Newberger, once seen practicing at the Playhouse, simultaneously playing a tuba with one hand and a grand piano with the other, opens Gretna Music’s 30th season June 10. Newberger’s Whistlin’ Dixie group includes National Public Radio’s Butch Thompson and celebrated jazz whistler Brad Terry.

[] Bluegrass at Gretna Music? You may not believe your ears when the Claremont Trio performs a cross-over bluegrass-classical piece at the concert series’ opener June 12. Never fear: the concert includes a Beethoven piano trio and closes with a Mendelssohn masterwork. Details: (717) 361-1508.

[] Former Mt. Gretnan Eveyln Duncan reports from Bisbee, Ariz. that abandoned copper mines there remind her of Cornwall. She returns here in mid-July, visiting friends, volunteering at the Playhouse, and getting ready for yet another year (her third) of solo motorhome adventures across America.

[] Governor Dick's board will decide June 29 exactly which recommendations they’ll adopt to restore the 1,105-acre forest’s original diversity and vitality. About 50 persons turned out May 31 to discuss a forester’s plan to use herbicides, curb deer overpopulation, harvest timber and reduce invasive plants.

[] The New Black Eagle Jazz Band makes its 29th Playhouse appearance June 11. They return the next morning for the annual Jazz Worship Service, led by retiring Lebanon Valley College chaplain Darrell Woomer (who’ll also lead services at a Tabernacle Hymn Festival Aug. 3).

[] Heights homeowners gather June 18 at their community building for an annual meeting, starting at 10 a.m. At 6 p.m., they’ll return with covered dish delicacies for a potluck supper, a new tradition for the 70-home neighborhood.

[] Chris Resh describes the games Victorian children played at a Chautauqua playground presentation for youngsters and adults, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 22. Mt. Gretna’s historical society is sponsoring the talk.

[] Jack Bitner, author of Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy, describes the history of Mt. Gretna’s narrow gauge railroad in the Chautauqua community building at 7:30 p.m. June 24. He’ll lead a railroad bed hike from the roller rink parking lot at 9:30 the next morning.

[] Eva Bender may be retiring from Mt. Gretna’s art show, but you can catch her latest works at Elizabethtown’s Lynden Gallery June 24-July 31. The Swedish-born painter creates “the haiku of watercolor with pencil lines, translucent color and water instead of words.” See

[] Timbers musical director Andy Roberts’ June 26 jazz worship service with his dad, John (a semi-retired minister), at the Tabernacle features the Four Piece Quartet (all full-time Lebanon musicians whose CDs include “Sunday Standards” and a Christmas album, “On This Day”). Time: 7:30 p.m.

[] Monday night Playhouse readings begin June 20 with “Asylum 11,” a multimedia theatrical experience. Rob Campbell (last year’s “Amadeus” star) plays a comic book author interacting with four TV monitors, each featuring a different character played by Campbell himself. Admission: $10, at 8 p.m.

[] Those increasingly popular Tuesday book reviews resume June 28 with Sidney Poitier’s autobiography, The Measure of a Man, reviewed by Dr. Howard Applegate, Lebanon Valley College emeritus professor of history. Meet for coffee and cookies at Chautauqua’s community building 9:45 a.m. Free admission; donations welcome.

[] Hershey artist Sharon Jenne, a top 50 finalist among 13,000 “The Artist” magazine competitors, will teach still life oil painting “from real objects, not photographs” on Fridays, 9 a.m. to Noon at Chautauqua’s community building June 17-July 29. Cost: $10 per class. Details: 534-2575.

[] Mt. Gretna artist and frequent art show exhibitor Larry Lombardo will teach watercolor painting on Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Chautauqua’s community building starting June 27. Cost: $10 per session. Details: (717) 867-3055.

[] A Christian book study group is starting this fall. Timberbridge resident Bray Brunkhurst, who attends Mt. Gretna’s United Methodist Church, says the group will meet at his home and invites Mt. Gretnans to join him. Details:

[] Vacation Bible School registrations now are open (964-3241) for youngsters age three through fifth grade. The 6:30 to 8:15 p.m. sessions take place July 11-15. Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church organizers say 30 to 40 children usually participate.

[] Dale Grundon’s popular “make-a-suncatcher” classes in stained glass art begin at 6 p.m. June 15 in Chautauqua’s community building. There’ll be another class on June 22. Preregister at least three days in advance; details: 964-1830.

[] Bob Howard demystifies digital photography in Chautauqua’s two-part summer program series, “Digital Cameras for Dummies,” starting June 20. Sign up by June 13. Fee: $30 for both sessions. Call 964-1830 to register.

[] Jeff Hurst draws on his personal experiences in discussing “The Greenpeace to Amchitka,” a book about the 1971 protests against nuclear testing on a tiny Aleutian island which helped create the world’s most powerful environmental group; at the library June 29; 7 p.m.

[] Mt. Gretna’s former Maximum Security Prison is Jeff Hurst’s 7 p.m. topic at the library June 30. Jeff, the Campmeeting’s multitalented president, is also a senior staff scientist at Hershey Foods’ Technical Center where, among other things, he employs nanotechnologies to probe chocolate’s divine mysteries.

[] “The Awesome Grand Canyon” is Susan Spahr’s travelogue topic June 10 at Chautauqua’s community building. Discussion and light refreshments follow the 7:30 p.m. presentation. Free admission; donations welcome.

[] What grows best in Mt. Gretna? The answers may surprise you at Chautauqua’s June 29 “planting with shade-loving perennials,” a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday program that Stony Bridge Garden Center’s pros will present at the community building.

[] The first of this year’s organ recitals at the Hewitt-McAnney home at 1 Princeton Avenue begins July 7. It’s not too soon to make reservations (964-1830) for this increasingly popular, limited-seating Thursday evening series. Free admission; donations welcomed.

[] Former Mt. Gretnan George McCarty, 79, brother of Pat Pinsler and Mary Ellen McCarty, died last month in California. A WWII, Korean and Vietnam war veteran, his 1920s-30s boyhood pals here included Don Fowler, Morris Greiner, Don Attwood, Don Sessions, Charlie Prowell and Earl Thomas.

[] Outdoor Sunday morning worship services, a Mt. Gretna tradition since even before Mt. Gretna’s founding in 1892, resume July 3 at both the Campmeeting Tabernacle and the Chautauqua Playhouse. Both services start at 10 a.m.

2 Appearances this year at Gretna Music by Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim. The first, June 19, brings three other Philadelphia Orchestra members here for works by Brahms, Shostakovich and Faure. Kim returns July 10 for an all-Bach program. Details: or (717) 361-1508.

5 Mt. Gretna Fire Company mugs now in Eleanor Sarabia’s designer series. The 2005 edition, featuring Eleanor’s sketch of the Heights’ Community Building, now is on sale ($10) at Remember When gift shop, The Hideaway and Colebrook’s Collins grocery store. (Missing one or two in the series? Several recently discovered mugs from 2002, 2003 and 2004 are now available at the gift shop. If you hurry, you may still be able to complete your set --- now, increasingly, a collector’s item.)

100 Percent increase in the North American turkey vulture population between 1980 and 2000, according to a June 2 article in The Washington Post. One cause: Urban sprawl. “The more land-clearing you do, the better it is for vultures,” says the USDA’s Martin Lowney. “It makes it easier to find food. So they’re going to keep increasing at a fast rate.”

[] “My wife and I have asked several neighbors what is the Chautauqua Foundation? No one knows. What do people donate? For what purpose?"

<> The foundation was set up as a 501(c)(3) organization four years ago to allow donors to make tax-deductible contributions to various Chautauqua summer programs, including the Cicada Festival. Stinson Stroup is its current chairman. The foundation is part of a long-range plan inspired by the late Barry Miller, who hoped it might someday accept large donations that could also buy and preserve undeveloped land. With about $10,000 currently, the group hopes to launch a wide-ranging appeal this summer to community neighbors, Cicada Festival attendees and summer program participants. Foundation board members are the same people serving on Chautauqua’s 15-member board. “But there’s no reason others from elsewhere in the community can’t serve on the foundation’s board,” says Stinson. In addition to the Cicada Festival, the group also helps support those Sunday mini concerts at the community building, Chautauqua’s book reviews, and the organ concert series each July.

[] We live outside Mt. Gretna, but we used to pick up a copy of the Summer Calendar when we visited the Deli (which we miss for more reasons than this). Can you let readers know where they can get a copy?

<> Until supplies are exhausted, you’ll find calendars at Collins Grocery, Remember When gift shop, the Hideaway, Timbers, Jigger Shop, the Information Center, Mt. Gretna Borough office, Penn Realty, Yale Electric, Lebanon Tourist Bureau, and about 60 other locations throughout the area. The 2005 calendar also has just been posted online at As we mentioned last month, you can add your name to the permanent mailing list by sending $1.40 to Mt. Gretna Arts Council, P.O. Box 513, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. And while you’re writing that check, remember that donations to Mt. Gretna’s Arts Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, are both welcome and tax-deductible.

[] What’s the name and phone number of the Mt. Gretna gift shop that carries the T-shirt with the rocker?

<> Remember When gift shop, owned by Reenie and Joe Macsisak, has an ample supply of the 2005 T-shirts and sweatshirts with a rocker symbolizing all that’s right in the world of Mt. Gretnans. Call 964-2231, or E-mail They also have copies of Charlotte Valentine’s new book, The Buried Treasure of Mt. Gretna (which the author will review at the library July 20) and the latest coffee mug in the Mt. Gretna fire company’s collector series.

[] Where did all the Ladybugs come from? A young man at Gov. Dick told me last fall about an environmental study that was being done at the top of the tower, which involved the "Ladies". I imagine they somehow settled into our community.

<> As we reported last January, we couldn’t find anybody who knew anything about the study at Governor Dick tower. Biologist Chuck Allwein says, however, that a specific series of ladybugs was released several years ago to control woolly adelgid, a parasite that attacks hemlocks.

[] I will be renting a cottage on Muhlenburg Avenue July 23-30. I am looking for a baby-sitter for a 10-year-old boy for afternoon and evenings. Can you help?

<> The Mt. Gretna Newsletter, like an electronic version of that kiosk outside the post office, invites anyone who may be able to lend a hand to contact Kathryn Rolston (, or telephone (207) 767-4782.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. Thanks to the many readers who continue to write, sending both messages of good cheer and newsworthy items to share with others who dwell in Mt. Gretna, whether in fact or in spirit. And our continued appreciation for the hundreds of readers who help extend our coverage by forwarding copies of The Mt. Gretna Newsletter to friends and relatives throughout the world. Remember, thanks to Keith and Robin Volker’s Mt. Gretna Inn, you can also find this letter (and back issues) on the Web at

{::} 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 our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-4500.