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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 50 August 10, 2005




August is moving along at its customary pace. Mt. Gretnans are wrapping up the final details for next weekend’s art show, the season’s single-biggest event. . . one that Harrisburg Magazine readers last year selected as best art exposition in the area. It’s also an event that’s served as a focal point for parties, family get-togethers, and an all-round good time for the past 29 years. In all, a celebratory fest like no other, matched in spirit, fun and goodwill by few places elsewhere on the planet. Thanks to good planning, good organizing and spirited volunteers, everything seems ready. As usual.


Yet beneath August’s familiar stirrings, people hereabouts are sorting out plans for the days and months ahead. Those determined folks at the former general store, for example. Damien Acquino and his dad Mariano, pushing against formidable hurdles, hoping to satisfy all the regulatory codes so they can finally realize their dream of someday running a business of their own. They’re fixed on opening at the earliest possible date. Yet just when that will be remains uncertain. But the Acquinos, who took their inaugural leap into the entrepreneurial fray last summer, remain certain they’ll reach their goal.


Even more certain are prospects for expanded cellular service here. Verizon says several other communications companies now have expressed interest in piggybacking on their tower, which went into service along Mine Road last February. Sprint confirms that they intend to lease space there, with service starting sometime in the last quarter of this year. And if Sprint comes, can NexTel be far behind? The two companies are merging. And although the NexTel unit serving our region is a different corporate entity, the hope is that when the merger dust finally settles, local NexTel customers will gain service here as well.

Meanwhile, Cingular tells us their engineers are taking another look at coverage here. At first they thought their new tower along Route 72 would do the trick. But nobody in Mt. Gretna we’ve talked to said they could place calls from a Cingular phone. Now, says a spokesperson, Cingular is looking at alternative sites to strengthen their coverage. We also asked T-Mobile about their plans. So far, however, they’ve been mum, just like their phones in Mt. Gretna. We’ll keep you posted.


We’ll also keep you advised on the road improvement front. State and county officials were here this week to talk about long-range plans to transform Route 117 into Lebanon County’s first scenic byway. Some people we’ve talked to wondered if widening the route to allow bike and jogging paths might endanger trees or reduce the already scarce space available for parking. But officials assure us that preserving both scenic beauty and parking space are top priorities. And they intend to bring everyone --- conservationists, municipal officials, rail-trail officials and others --- into the planning discussions before they pave a single foot of roadway. And in any event, nothing is going to happen before 2007. Plenty of time to sort through the best possible ideas for enhancing Mt. Gretna’s role as a haven for recreational, cultural and leisurely pursuits. Just the way, we imagine, Robert Habersham Coleman would have wanted it.



An army truck from Mt. Gretna’s encampment days is back home, safely ensconced in a borough maintenance building and awaiting its permanent place in a museum here someday. Preserved in its original condition --- with kerosene lamps and an operating manual for every part down to its nuts, bolts, springs, shovels and buckets, the 1918 Dodge has about 4,000 original miles on its odometer. Delighted history buffs recently discovered it sitting in a garage, about three miles from Mt. Gretna.

Historian and principal donor Jack Bitner invites others to join him with tax-deductible Historical Society contributions to help cover the truck’s $12,000 acquisition cost. C ontributions earmarked for the “1918 Mt. Gretna Ammunition Truck” should go to: Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society, P.O. Box 362, Mount Gretna, PA 17064.


IN BRIEF (45 words or less )

[] Tickets are still available for tonight’s (Aug. 10) Cicada jazz fest with Nancy Reed and her friends. But seats are getting scarce for the “Summer Harmony” men’s chorus (Aug. 11), the “Mudflaps” (Aug. 15) and “Mainstreet Brass Quintet” (Aug. 16). Ticket orders: 964-2046.

[] “An Evening of Memories of The Chautauqua Inn,” with recollections by former Inn employees, begins Friday (Aug. 12) at 7:30 p.m. in the Hall of Philosophy. Everyone’s invited to share comments, questions and memories.

[] Familiar names you’ll find among the exhibitors at this year’s art show: Larry Lombardo, Les Miller and Madeline Gray, plus former Mt. Gretnans Carol Snyder and Fred Albright.

[] Cedar Crest senior Alec Loehr (Sue Loehr’s grandson) sparked those performing arts presentations at the kid’s art show this year. Youthful singers, dancers and musicians will perform at the playground pavilion starting at 1 p.m. (with “open mike” sessions for anyone after 3 p.m.).

[] Eagle scout Mark Cain spearheaded construction of a sign along the rail-trail depicting Mt. Gretna’s railroad history. Pictures and words celebrate the little railroad that charged 25 cents for a trip to Governor Dick, never made a profit, and closed 90 years ago. See

[] Architect Roland Nissley will lead a walking tour next Saturday (Aug. 13) of Mt. Gretna places depicted in old postcards. The Historical Society-sponsored tour, “Postcards, Then and Now,” leaves from the Chautauqua parking lot at 9:30 a.m.

[] Lee Ellis, once stationed at Ft. Indiantown Gap during a 33-year army career, is researching the Mt. Gretna encampment and wants to talk with people who might share memories from that era. He’s the son-in-law of Campmeeting resident Dorothy Landis Gray. His address:

[] Tabernacle highlights on the horizon: (Aug. 14) Bob Troxell’s “Lively Goin to Church Music” at 10 a.m. and Fred Rice’s Massed Choir at 7:30 p.m.; (Aug. 21) Susquehanna Chorale, 7:30 p.m.; and (Aug. 28) the Lancaster Brass Quintet, 7:30 p.m.

[] Joan Sutherland’s “Overnight Breakfast” casserole you can prepare in advance—with sausage, eggs, grated cheese and mustard --- is a Scott Zellers specialty, one of over 100 recipes in the newly reprinted Fire Company cookbook, available at the Hideaway, Remember When, and Collins Grocery, $12.

[] Do they come for the pig or for that once-a-year glimpse of Mayor Shay’s famous Hawaiian shirt? Thanks to chef-on-the-go Becky Briody, the pig will appear at the fire company’s annual roast Saturday, Sept. 17, starting at 4 p.m. So will the sartorially resplendent mayor.

[] Volunteers needed to clean and mulch the Campmeeting’s shuffleboard courts. Jane Zellers and Deb Barnhart , whose butterfly garden duties fill their spare hours, report that an elderly gentleman who formerly tended the courts now cannot continue. Can you help? Leave a message: 964-3233.

[] John Thomas Tinney, Jr., 65, died in Leesburg, Va. July 17, following a long illness. John grew up in Mt. Gretna (where he asked that some of his ashes be spread) and is remembered by Kent Fox, Alice McKeone, the Attwood family, many others.

[] French classes taught by Debbie Clemens (who retired last November after 35-years as a French teacher) begin this fall in your home --- Mt. Gretna or elsewhere --- with lessons organized to participants’ needs and wishes. Home-schooled children especially welcomed, she says. Details: 964-3825.

[] Gretna Music’s 30 th season continues Aug. 14 with rarely heard Renaissance love songs, resumes Aug. 28 with Ethel (a string quartet that sometimes breaks classical music’s boundaries) and closes Sept. 4 with the Audubon Quartet performing a Beethoven work they first played here in 1977.

[] Jazz sessions still on Gretna Music’s calendar include pianist Cyrus Chestnut performing jazz inspired by gospel, blues and classical themes Aug. 13, and Kevin Mahogany (bluesman, crooner, scatman, balladeer and gospel singer) and his trio Sept. 3. Both Saturday performances start at 8 p.m.

[] Gretna Theater launches its final play of the season “Stand By Your Man, The New Tammy Wynette Musical” at the Playhouse Aug. 23. Performances continue through Sept. 1.



1 Peggy O’Neil is the first woman president of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua since its founding 113 years ago. The group’s 15-member board elected her to the post Aug. 1.

2 More sessions in that swing dance lesson series at Chautauqua’s community building. Ceylon and Karen Leitzel say vacationing couples from Ohio, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere have been attending the Thursday night classes. The next one comes up tomorrow (Aug. 11), starting at 7:30 p.m. They’re adding a final class Aug. 25 at the Heights community building, just two days before their end-of-summer Big Band Beach Party at the lake.

Ceylon says the After Hours Big Band will play music from the 1940s from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. --- on a night when Mars will make its closest swing ever to Earth. “No one alive will ever see this again,” he says. Reserve a table or bring your own chairs to enjoy the music and celestial magic under the stars. Everyone’s invited to bring their own snacks, nonalcoholic drinks, even their own wineglasses. Call 964-1829 to reserve a space. Cost: $18.

8    Antique autos expected to show up here around Noon Aug. 17, part of a touring entourage from Pittsburgh's North Hills Antique Auto Club, led by friends and relatives of Donald and Jean Dohner, who've been enjoying their 100 Locust Ave. cottage for the past quarter century.

12 Commercial-sized bags of pancake mix that Sandy Moritz, Susan Bowman and their team of about 40 volunteers typically use at the Men’s Club art show breakfast, which runs from 7 to 11 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. “This year we’ll have pancakes with or without blueberries, beverages, baked goods and sweets and fresh cantaloupe,” says Sandy, who cordially invites calls (964-2348) from volunteers who’d like to help out.

50 Afghan quilts newly arrived and (inspired by old postcards and historic photos) depicting scenes from Mt. Gretna history are now on sale at Gretna Computing, 964-1106. Designed by Sue Sutcliffe and other volunteers, the 51” by 66” coverlets have become one of Mt. Gretna Fire Company’s most popular fund-raisers.

114 Reservations for the final organ recital in 2005’s series. That surpasses the previous record set by Wanamaker organist Richard Conte last year. The attraction? Allen Organ Company’s Barry Holden, displaying Allen’s latest technical wizardry. Besides three Bach works, Holden performed Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehaving,” accompanying his own prerecorded organ improvisation on the piano. “I knew he was good,” says series organizer Peter Hewitt. “I just didn’t know how good.” Holden may return next year for an encore appearance at the Cicada Festival.

What’s on tap for the organ recitals next July? Peter promises a Thursday night lineup that will include Market Street Presbyterian Church organist Dr. Pierce Getz (who opened the series 10 years ago), Mt. Gretna organists (“more talented organists here than many people realize,” says Peter), Julliard organ music chairman Paul Jacobs, and the Allen Organ Company’s Dwight Beacham, a theater organ design specialist.

200 Art show volunteers invited to gather at the Chautauqua community building Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 7:00 p.m. There they’ll find scrumptious desserts, friends old and new, and reports on how the proceeds from this year’s show will help pave streets, buy fire engines and keep things humming communitywide.

554 Number of times the word “volunteer” has appeared in this newsletter (9 times in this issue alone) since we began writing it four-and-a-half years ago. Solid evidence, if any were needed, of what fuels “the Mt. Gretna spirit.”

979,200 Bubbles to be blown during the art show from Ginny Minnich’s automatic bubble-blowing machine. Those glistening orbs should begin wafting over Princeton Ave. just as the show starts and continue through the two-day, 17-hour event. (Now honestly, folks, where else will you find stuff like that?)



Two signs in and around Mt. Gretna have caught our readers’ attention recently. Both have been around for years, yet their latent vexation potential appears to be growing: (1) “MT. GRETNA MTCE” splashed in huge red letters on the Turnpike’s maintenance shed. Say our readers: “That’s all that most Turnpike travelers ever know, or see, of Mt. Gretna. Can’t the folks who run the Turnpike create something more befitting an arts-centered community?” And (2) “ MT. GRETNA AUTHORITY SEWAGE TREATMENT FACILITY” along Route 117.  Ask our readers, “why not something simple, such as ‘Mt. Gretna Authority’ with attractive letters and design?”



[] Whatever happened to those beavers? Have they been relocated, eradicated or beamed up to elsewhere? I found solid evidence of their presence early last winter at Lake Conewago and at the old ice dam. But what’s happened since?

<> It’s a mystery, says t he U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Chris Croson.  He suggests two possibilities:  First, beavers like to control their own water level.  Since the lake is drained each year, that may have been more than the beavers could tolerate. Plus, beavers also are strict conservationists, he says.  They’ll move elsewhere if they think they’re endangering the food supply. In any event, Mt. Gretna’s beaver problem appears to have vanished.

Yet lurking on the horizon are those persistent turkey vultures. Their numbers have been declining here for the past several years, even as communities elsewhere in the nation report their flocks are growing. USDA officials say Mt. Gretna’s relocation campaign is one of the most successful in the country. Five years ago, we had the largest known vulture roost in Pennsylvania. The original flock of over 600 birds now is down to about 50. But, says the USDA’s Jason Suckow, “Vultures have long memories. They began coming to Mt. Gretna in the 1960s. They remember their winter roosts from seven or eight years ago. If nothing bothers them, they’ll be back.”

[] My father-in-law spends part of his summers in Mt. Gretna. Over the years, he has purchased the collector coffee mugs. But for some reason, he never bought one from 2003. I’m hoping to find one to make his collection complete.

<> Campmeeting resident Tom Baum, who often buys a dozen or so mugs each year to help out our firefighters, sometimes has extras, including some from 2003. Contact him at A few others --- recently discovered from 2002, 2003 and 2004 --- are on sale at Remember When gift shop and at Gretna Computing.

The mugs are among the items our readers ask about most often, suggesting that their collector’s value is apt to grow. The 2005 edition, featuring Eleanor Sarabia’s sketch of the Heights Community Building is still available ($10) at the gift shop, the Hideaway and Collins grocery in Colebrook.

[] Every year when we walk to the art show from our home in Horseshoe Trail Estates, my wife and I walk down to the old railroad bed and along a path leading to the craft show. Near where the old railroad station once stood is an old fountain base made from large pieces of chiseled redstone, lying unnoticed and covered with bushes and weeds. Might the borough be willing to have it restored and moved near the Playhouse? I am sure there are volunteers who would be happy to make it happen. I would.

<> A good suggestion. . . and one that we’re passing along to all readers with the hope that some may be willing to help make the idea a reality.

[] Why does the library throw away books? So often we have seen piles at the trash can and wonder why the unwanted books are not left on racks at the porch or perhaps donated to an organization that could sell them.

<> Our library volunteers, booklovers all, are reluctant to throw away any book. Instead, they give their time and gas to transport unusable books (duplicates and volumes for which there is simply no room left on the crowded shelves) to places like Goodwill, the humane society’s book sales and other locations, sometimes making as many as two trips a week. Books that have to be tossed in the trash are outdated or simply moldy, making them unsuitable for further use. Your question is a good one, and it gives us all a chance to salute the volunteers who make having a library in a small town like Mt. Gretna not only a reality, but also a stimulating place for children’s story hours, summertime book reviews, and, as seen this year, native American craft classes.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P. S. Our thanks to the many readers around the world who kindly pass along copies of this newsletter to friends and neighbors, especially those lacking Internet connections. Thanks also to the many folks who pass along news, ideas and questions that help stimulate the flow of information reported in this newsletter. . . a bulletin intended solely to help keep a vibrant community of talented, imaginative and well-informed people even better informed.




{::} Enjoy Mt. Gretna’s beauty through windows that positively sparkle. Schoolteachers Faith and Brad will clean your windows with “sunshiny service that’s sure to please.” If you mention this message, they’ll donate 10 percent of their fee to Mt. Gretna’s fire company. Sunshine Window Washing:, or call 964-2212.


{::} Tuesdays are Mt. Gretna Fire Company Night at Farmer’s Hope Inn on Route 72, just north of the turnpike. Tell them you’re a Mt. Gretnan. Owners Tim and Terri Brown will cheerfully send 10 percent of your tab to our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-4500.