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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 51 September 9, 2005


Summer still has nearly two weeks to go. Autumn officially begins Sept. 22.

Yet here in Mt. Gretna, where the population shrinks from about 2,500 to roughly 1,500 this time every year, the sudden downshift to fall lands with a gentle bump that almost startles, a mixture of both sadness and joy. Another summer season is passing, but approaching is a new one, carrying with it a secret that some regard as just too good to share: Mt. Gretna’s true grandeur unfolds in the fall.

What outsiders know is that the Jigger Shop has closed, darkness has descended on the Playhouse, and geese seem the only creatures now sending ripples across the lake. What those who remain know, however, is that this quiet time sends out ripples of another sort: sunbursts through the colorful leaves of trees marching towards winter, couples holding hands along empty streets where only days before promenaded thousands of art show patrons, and, among year-rounders, knowing nods: Once again, we have this magical place mostly to ourselves.

Other musings stir as the season’s curtain descends: Many are doing what they can, with both money and volunteer man-hours, to help the hurricane victims. And here at home, most lament yet another summer without a store, especially as gas prices rise and supplies seem vulnerable. Memories of long lines at the pumps spring up among those who endured the ‘70s. Here and there, glimpses of Segways and motor scooters, making their way in and around Mt. Gretna. Immutable signs of both energy dependence and man’s resolve to triumph over any obstacle.

Reflections, too, about the art show, number 31 in a long line of worthy predecessors. But this one with something seemingly special. To be sure, and mirroring national trends, the attendance numbers were down again: 13,998 this year, compared with 15,517 in 2004. Yet gate receipts were up—just $800 short of the record in 2000, when volunteers collected $89,065 from 17,813 people passing through the entrance gates. That’s the difference a $2 admission price increase can make, an increase that brought our show in line with others and underwrites fire trucks, roadways and other community projects. Show coordinator Linda Bell invites groups with communitywide causes to give her a call. Among those now being considered: maintenance work at the Tabernacle, landscaping, and possibly another “dry” fire hydrant at the western end of Lake Conewago, available to firefighters for emergencies.

Probably what’s most impressive about the art show is its lessons in management efficiency. Number of planning meetings requiring Linda’s 16 key volunteers to meet as a group: One, held in July. “Everybody knows their job. I really have nothing to get all that stressed about,” says Linda. “I’d just love for anybody who gives us an hour or two of their time to know that they are appreciated by the exhibitors. They tell us this show is so pleasant, and everybody is just so helpful.”

Of the 285 artists who came to this year’s show, one stands out for Linda: a painter from Newport, N.H., 54-year-old Mary Jane Cross. (See For the past 13 years, she’s suffered from a severe tremor that makes brush strokes impossible. So she dips her fingernails into the colorful oils and paints with her fingers instead. Landscapes, portraits, flowers, and scenes of France and Ireland. For some details, especially in painting the eyes of her portrait subjects, she attaches a prosthetic device and paints with her shoulder. Her works echo a haunting beauty, radiating the artist’s own blissful outlook on life, says Linda. “She was so pleasant. I don’t think she sold much, but she was so nice, so appreciative and so happy. I left her booth filled with thoughts of gratitude.”

And that, it strikes us, is how Mt. Gretnans typically say farewell to summer and welcome the coming of fall. Grateful for all that we have, and strengthening our commitments to nurture, to share, and to make enduring. “I will pursue beauty all my days,” says Mary Jane Cross, the artist from New Hampshire. It seems a worthy pursuit.


Chautauqua’s summer programs planners, believe it or not, are already at work on the 2006 season. They’re inviting your ideas to broaden their impressive lineup.

Offerings this past summer included classes in oils and watercolors, terra cotta pot-making, basket-weaving, Victorian tea parties, hikes along the Mt. Gretna rail bed, Independence Day celebrations, old-time movies, and a tour of Pennsylvania’s state capitol. Also offered: Old time movies, tree identification talks, digital camera courses, stained glassmaking classes, and swing dance lessons. They’d like even more ideas for next year.

Kathy Snavely, one of several energizers on the summer programs team, says they want to hear from folks with both “suggestions for the country’s 230th birthday celebration and for craft classes you'd like to attend, musical groups you'd like to hear at the Sunday mini-concerts, evening special topic programs, maybe something you've seen elsewhere and liked, questions you've had about Mt. Gretna and haven't found good answers for, and current topics in culture or the news you'd like to hear more about.”

Already there’s a waiting list for people eager to learn penny rug-making, an 18th century craft and perennial favorite taught by Arline Althouse, Mt. Gretna’s “Grandma Moses.” And Kathy says they’re rescheduling the decorative garden stone class that had to be canceled this year when an instructor became ill.

Among other offerings they’re considering are Internet-linked programs at the Hall of Philosophy—built in 1909—and now Wi-Fi “hot,” at least during the summer. She’s also looking into programs offered at those 16 other Chautauqua communities scattered across the U.S. And she says they’re thinking about stretching the summer program series to include weeks both earlier and later in the season, says Kathy. Send your ideas to her at (


Gretna Theater’s Coghlan Award at the Oct. 8 gala at the Hotel Hershey will go to Dr. David Bronstein, whose energies, drive and vision have helped sustain live theater in Mt. Gretna. Previous award winners have included Tom Ebright, Mary Hoffman, Evelyn Duncan and Gov. Richard Thornburg.

Gala attendees will find awaiting them 24 stunning table centerpieces: individually crafted Venetian masques, each reflecting this year’s onstage theme, “Musicals, Mystery and Madness,” and the offstage talents of designers Glin Atkinson and Pearle Kamp Parsells.


How goes it on the cellular front? As we reported last month, Sprint says it plans to piggyback an antenna on Verizon’s tower later this year. T-Mobile remains Sphinx-like. And Cingular’s always cautious spokesperson says “serving our customers well in this area is important to us and part of our network planning review, which is done continually. Presently, I cannot comment if we intend to co-locate on the Verizon tower.” Which, in business-speak usually means, “We’re gonna do exactly that.”


With home heating oil costs soaring, Mt. Gretna snowbirds may want to review these tips, contributed by Bill Care, Merv Lentz, Chuck Allwein and Bob Sims:

[] If your cottage won’t be used all winter, drain the pipes and have a plumber run compressed air through the lines. Use a cup and sponge to remove as much water as possible from the toilet bowl, and pour nontoxic antifreeze (the type used in RVs and sold at Lowes and Tractor Supply) in traps, tanks and bowls.

[] Make sure to drain ALL water --- including water heaters (leave the water heater’s drain open) and the water line to your refrigerator’s ice cube-maker.

[] If you’re leaving the heat on, post a “winter sentry” in the window. Set it to signal neighbors if indoor temperatures drop below 40 degrees. (Longenecker’s Hardware carries the sentries; some fuel oil delivery companies also make them available on loan without charge.) During periods of severe cold, ask someone to check your cottage daily.

[] Remove soft drinks and other cans and bottles containing liquids that can freeze if the heat is turned off, or during power outages.

[] If you rely on someone to turn off your water line from the street, call them early. Don’t wait until the first freeze warning.

[] Disconnect garden hoses. Residual water in a hose or spigot will freeze, causing pipes to burst.

Bob Sims, who offers property-watch services for absentee owners, says that snow buildup is greater on unheated roofs. If a roof condition is suspect, get it checked, he advises. Bob offers to work with owners seeking to close up their cottages for the winter. Borough manager Bill Care also invites questions: 964-3231.

Other tips:

[] Pump RV fluid through the drain cycle on the dishwasher and washing machine.

[] Remove cartridges from all water filters.

[] If you have hot water heat and visit only on weekends, shut off the main water valve (the one coming into the cottage from the street) even though you leave the heat on, says Bill. As an extra precaution, you may even want to ask a plumber to fill your hot water heat system with antifreeze rather than water, adds Chuck.

[] Install an air compressor quick-disconnect male fitting to make winterizing easier.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Work on that rail-trail spur into Mt. Gretna will likely begin next spring. PennDOT has approved the plan, but a few paperwork hurdles remain. Coordinator John Wengert hopes to advertise for bids in December, making possible an early spring construction start.

[] What causes Mayor Shay to crack through that normally decorous reserve once each year? Is chef Becky’s delectable secret found in the beer? The pig? The seasoned salt? You’ll discover answers aplenty at the fire company’s annual pig roast Sept. 17, starting at 4 p.m.

[] Le Sorelle Café ( has resumed its Friday-Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. winter schedule. The next Saturday theme night comes up Sept. 24, with authentic “Taste of Thai” dishes prepared, says family restaurant co-owner Stephanie Lamont, by “Aunt Sunee and her brother Thira.”

[] Tradition you may have missed: From September to May each year, about 30 Mt. Gretnans assemble on the last Wednesday of the month for a noon luncheon (with freewill offering) at United Methodist Church. It’s called “The Gathering Place.” Next gathering: Sept. 28. You’re invited.

[] “Remember When” gift shop—helping fundraising groups here sell fire company mugs, cookbooks, house tour tickets and more—now is open weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until mid-December. Popular Christmas gift: Charlotte Valentine’s “The Buried Treasure of Mt. Gretna.” Tel. 964-2231 or

[] Yes, there will be a Halloween parade Oct. 28. Yes, there will be an official Mt. Gretna Halloween Band. And yes, the Timbers’ Nicole Roberts, 11, who helped create the band last year, will lead it. She’s again inviting musicians to join her.

[] Mt. Gretna Authority will delete “sewage treatment” from its Rt. 117 sign (See Aug. 10 Newsletter, “Signs Our Readers Would Change Dept.”) Turnpike officials haven’t yet said what, if anything, they’ll do about “MT. GRETNA MTCE,” splashed in big block letters across their maintenance shed.

[] Governor Dick officials are seeking court approval to issue 100 permits, drawn by lottery, for a deer hunt at the 1,100-acre park this year. A proposal to control the proliferating herd and preserve the forest would limit weapons to shotguns, bows and muzzle-loading rifles.

[] Barb Fishman says a few spaces remain open in her watercolors classes. She invites both beginners and experienced artists who enjoy learning about watercolor techniques and experimenting with color to join her at Barbara’s Studio in the Woods, 113 Lakeview Drive. Details: 964-3332.

[] Historian Lee Ellis asks readers with memories of Mt. Gretna’s encampment days to contact him at Lee was once stationed at Ft. Indiantown Gap, where a museum now houses many artifacts from that era, dating from the Spanish-American War to the early 1930s.

[] Summer’s fading, but picnics are not. Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church’s annual picnic at Gretna Glen starts after the 10 a.m. worship service Sept. 18. Sunday school sessions also resume that day.

[] News-You’ll-Not-Read-Anywhere-Else: The Tribury (Conn.) Turkey Vultures lost their playoff game last month, ending what fans hoped would be a promising baseball season. We just thought you’d like to know that as, sometime around mid-November, Tribury’s mascots start bombarding Mt. Gretna.

[] Middle Creek’s wildlife management area presents retriever (as in canine) demonstrations, artwork and carving displays, decoy competitions, even goose-calling championships at its annual wildfowl show Sept. 17-18. Details: 717-733-1512.


[] I live in Mount Gretna, and wonder if there are any teenagers or others here who offer baby-sitting services? I sometimes need care for my children for weeknight work events, occasionally on weekends, and would love to find someone close by who is qualified and reliable. Is this something you could ask in The Mt. Gretna Newsletter?

<> We’re always happy to pass along names, numbers and e-mail addresses of baby-sitters, dog-sitters, house-sitters and others offering reliable services to neighbors. If you’d like to offer such services, drop us a note: We’ll be pleased to let others know.

[] With 31 years of Mt. Gretna art shows now in the history books, a reader wonders how many people have art show T-shirt collections that are complete?

<> Probably not many. Karl Gettle does; he ran the show for years. And a few others may. Says Karl: “It would be nice to hear from people who have them all, or if they need a certain year. Maybe others would be glad to give a shirt to someone so they could have all of them.”
He reports that some sweatshirts ($15) and T-shirts ($10) were left over following this year’s show. They’re the ones featuring Barb Yashinsky’s free-spirited design of tiny round symbols—sun, trees, leaves and flowers—suggesting an artist’s palette. If you didn’t pick up a shirt at the show—or if you’d like to see whether others might still be available from previous years—give Karl a call at 964-2292. E-mail:


1 First baptism (insofar as anybody knows) at Mt. Gretna’s Playhouse. Following worship services Aug. 14, the Rev. Canon William F. Murphey, a retired Episcopal clergyman, performed the rite for Caroline Elizabeth Marschalko, granddaughter of Ken and Kathy Pietsch, South Carolina residents who also own a cottage on Muhlenburg Avenue.

9th Place finish for Bill Care in the “50 and over” division of cyclists at the Labor Day race in Burlington, Vt. Over 900 competitors took part, 50 in the senior division with Bill, who finished 10th in the category last year.

10 Average number of daily visitors thus far as Governor Dick Park’s new nature center gets underway. “Some days, nobody comes in,” says weekend staffer Janie Gockley, an adjunct professor at Elizabethtown College. “But on another day, 19 people stopped by. It’s fun to discover where they’re from: Some have cottages in Mt. Gretna, others are from as far away as Maryland. One man even came from California. All are curious about the center, about what we’re doing.”
She and fellow staffer Brad Ditzler are planning educational programs such as a bird hike that comes up tomorrow (Sept. 10) at 7:30 a.m. (Hikers will assemble at the “Christmas tree parking lot" along Route 117.)
They’re also inviting schools to plan field trips. “We now have the facility, so we’re inviting them to do something creative with their classes,” says Janie.
Next month, at a date and time to be announced, Jack Bitner will be on hand to deliver a talk about the area’s history. Meanwhile, volunteers are working on creating interpretive trails (with marked plants and trees), installing bird feeders, and writing a new brochure.
Janie and Brad (a Mt. Gretna Heights resident who’s also a teacher) invite volunteers to provide nature hikes, tree identification and bird-watching studies and help with other educational programs. They’d like ideas for activities to make the nature center more useful for all. E-mail: Tel. 964-3808.
Until November, the center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. During winter months, the center is open by appointment only.

26 Percent savings for early birds who purchase (by Sept.30) subscriptions for next summer’s Music at Gretna concerts. Subscription booklets offer tickets good for either jazz or classical concerts. Details: (717) 361-1508.

55 Percent of Americans who look forward to discovering what each day’s mail might bring, says The New York Times. In Mt. Gretna, we suspect that percentage is even higher. Why? Walking to get the mail brings fresh air, exercise and a chance to greet neighbors—an opportunity largely unknown among suburbanites and city-dwellers. As one Florida reader told us a few years ago, “I work at home, alone most of the time. When I was in Mt. Gretna, going to the post office was often the highlight of my day.” She didn’t realize how much that meant until she moved away.

With kindest regards,

Roger Groce


{::} Need someone to check your cottage while you're away? Community-spirited Bob Sims (“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:

{::} And remember, 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 and owners Tim and Terri Brown will cheerfully send 10 percent of your bill to our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-4500.