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Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 53 Nov. 9, 2005

Does Mt. Gretna shut down after September, as a friend suggested to us last week?
To be sure, the pace slows. Many call it a welcome pause. In other communities, we’ll bet, most folks would welcome six months when crowds go away. It’s a calm that beckons, a welcome respite. Part of the magic that those who come only in summer never know. Yet cherished by all who remain.
This issue reports on much that is happening: from soup cook-offs to street lamp searches, from home concerts to carol sings, from pancake breakfasts to preconcert buffets. Plus the planning that goes on year ‘round --- planning that preserves the Mt. Gretna spirit and propels it to each new generation.
Although our friend may be right, or at least partially so, Mt. Gretna’s pulse does continue to beat during the fall and winter months. Yet at a pace that’s gently muffled. That’s the charm. That’s the enduring pleasure. And that’s our secret.

Officials hope PennDOT will approve funds for a yearlong planning effort that could eventually convert Route 117 into Lebanon County’s first scenic byway. If all goes well, that process could begin in January.
Lebanon planner Tom Kotay says that only after the planning work is done—work that he estimates will take a full 12 months—will they be able to apply for state and federal funds needed to make those plans a reality. Final decisions rest with both PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, and neither is expected to give their go-ahead until sometime after July 2007. Presently, says Tom, “no one can say whether Route 117 will be a scenic byway.”
Meanwhile, if planners do get approvals to begin in January, they hope to assemble a broadly based task force of local people as well as representatives from federal, state and regional agencies.
“We’ll want to work closely with PennDOT since they’d handle any reconstruction design of Route 117,” says Tom. “It’s important to get the shoulders widened for bike and pedestrian travel and allow parking along 117 in Mt. Gretna. Close coordination with PennDOT would be part of our task force’s quarterly planning.”
Most residents seem concerned about removing trees to allow four-to-six-foot bike paths along both sides of Route 117 from Colebrook to Route 72. But Tom, who retired recently from PennDOT and now works for Lebanon County’s planning team, thinks they can resurface the route and still preserve its tree-lined canopy. It is the trees, after all, that make the road so appealing—and a prime candidate as a scenic byway in the first place. Nobody wants to lose them.

Harry Short and Frank Romonoski “jumped in with both feet” and all seven of their guestrooms filled last weekend—their first as new owners of the Mt. Gretna Inn. A certified chef with more than two decades’ experience, Harry says buying the 80-year-old inn is a “dream fulfilled.” He and partner Frank have long-term plans to “enhance the range of services,” including catering and maybe even a restaurant someday.
For now, however, they’re focusing on the inn’s interior and exterior details, sampling guests’ ideas, and getting used to their new surroundings. Both partners have strong backgrounds in the hospitality field. Frank is regional operations director for a mid-Atlantic firm providing college and retirement home dining services. Harry, a Johnson and Wales culinary arts grad, is a chef at Philadelphia’s Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Former inn owners Robin and Keith Volker helped the new team get started before their Oct. 31 takeover. “The Volkers were extremely gracious,” says Harry, whose aunt, Diana Perkins, is a realtor at Penn Realty’s Mt. Gretna office. The Volkers now live in South Lebanon Twp. so their daughters (both volleyball standouts) can remain at Cedar Crest High. Keith will remain active as a Mt. Gretna fire company volunteer and expects to begin his new career soon as a realtor with Century 21 Krall. He and Robin are also busy these days with their latest venture,, a service offering 360-degree views on the Internet of restaurants, homes, inns and other sites.
For inn reservations and other details, call 964-3034 or 1-800-277-6602; also see the website:

Gretna Theater finished its 2005 season with a record-setting fund-raiser. Some 280 theater patrons swarmed into the Hotel Hershey last month to honor longtime volunteer, mentor and cynosure Dr. David Bronstein. With good attendance for shows such as Stand By Your Man, Gaslight, and It’s a Grand Night for Singing, this season’s stage presentations more than paid for themselves, says artistic director Will Stutts. He thinks combined revenues from the Hershey gala and ticket sales at the box office may have helped to ease the group’s budgetary woes, which now—amid rising competition from TV, movies, the Internet and other entertainment options—are common among regional theaters throughout the country.
Plans for next season include Dirty Blonde, the musical biography of Mae West; a Cole Porter musical revue; the classic thriller Dracula; Big River, a musical adaptation of Huck Finn; and William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker. Will says he hasn’t yet pinned down his performers, but he’s hoping to attract “All In the Family” star Sally Struthers, or maybe Vickie Lawrence, for the Dirty Blonde role. Other celebrities may join the 2006 lineup.
Meanwhile, things are decidedly looking up for Will, who’s produced three of Gretna Theater’s best-attended shows of the last decade since arriving here three years ago. He’ll soon be off to Florida for a reprise of his Noel Coward at the Café de Paris classic. He also has a new play being produced next year at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theater. And TriStar Productions has just taken an option on The Gift, Will’s play which may soon become a movie. Also on tap for the talented actor, producer and director is another Florida engagement (To Kill a Mockingbird, January through March). Then it’s on to Chicago and Ft. Wayne, Ind. where he’ll do Eye of the Storm before returning for Gretna Theater’s 2006 season opener.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)
[] Everyone’s invited to the 13th annual Christmas tree lighting and carol singing Dec. 3, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Hewitt-McAnney home, 1 Princeton Ave. Offerings: Carols, hot mulled cider, other refreshments. Plus music by organists Walter McAnney and Mt. Gretna’s 12-year-old Ryan Brunkhurst.
[] Pancake breakfast patron, commenting as he left the fire hall last Sunday and stopping to examine a large, wall-mounted map of Mt. Gretna: “You know you live in a small town,” he said, “when the map’s scale is shown in feet.”
[] That speed monitoring sign PennDOT loaned us last summer proved effective in slowing down motorists. And Cornwall police chief Bruce Harris now has found a grant so we can buy one of our own. The transportable sign should begin flashing speed warnings later this month.
[] A free 1:30 p.m. concert at 1 Princeton Ave. Saturday (Nov. 12) honors Harmonia Music Club past president Pat Walter. Performing Broadway melodies, popular songs and patriotic tunes will be Allen Organ Company’s George Boyer and wife Susan, a classically trained singer. Reservations: 964-3856.
[] Governor Dick Park’s November newsletter reports on plans for an interpretive trail, wildlife recently spotted in the forest, and memorial tree and bench programs when the nature center reopens in April. Have program suggestions? Subscribe to the free newsletter? E-mail Also see website:
[] A Washington Post column (“Escape Keys”) Oct. 19 recommended German platters at the Franklin House, overnight stays at the Cornwall Inn, and the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail, which traverses Mt. Gretna. Also cited: Cornwall iron furnace, the Western Hemisphere’s last charcoal cold-blast furnace still intact (
[] Mt. Gretna artists participating in this weekend’s (Nov. 12-13) free driving tour of tricounty art studios: Painters Shelby Applegate, Barbara Fishman, Elizabeth Stutzman and Fred Swarr; photographer Madelaine Gray; potters Floss Russell and Nancy Rogers; and jeweler Les Miller. Details:
[] Mt. Gretna’s Arts Council is expanding eligibility and extending the deadline for its 2006 scholarship program. Up to four $500 scholarships are available for high school graduates pursuing literature, theater, visual arts and music studies. See details:
[] What’s cooking at the fire company’s soup cook-off this weekend? Culinary creations you simply won’t believe. Some of Mt. Gretna’s top chefs will compete in this popular annual event. Discover your favorites, cast your vote. At the fire hall Saturday (Nov.12), noon to 2 p.m.
[] Mountain bike enthusiast 14-year-old Luke Steinke wants to start a biking club next spring. The Palmyra High student has lived in Mt. Gretna all his life, enjoys riding on local trails, and invites weekend mountain bikers to e-mail him:
[] A buffet at Elizabethtown College’s Leffler Center precedes an all-Beethoven program Nov. 19 featuring the Ying Quartet. The performance includes the Razumovsky quartet, “probably the most thrilling of all Beethoven’s string quartets,” says artistic coordinator Carl Kane. Details: (717) 361-1508 or
[] That prototype streetlight officials say might replace the area’s nonrepairable incandescent lamps someday has been moved from the playground. It’s now atop a pole at the corner of Temple and Muhlenberg avenues. Borough chief Bill Care says they’re continuing to explore other options.
[] Evelyn Duncan, among the most energetic volunteers ever and now one of Mt. Gretna’s most enthusiastic RVers, should be arriving in Louisiana today or tomorrow. Typically, she’ll be helping others. She’s already volunteered to distribute clothing and food to Katrina flood victims.
[] Leaves taking longer to fall this year? Could be. Borough officials say this fall’s warmer weather may force them to alter previously announced leaf pickup schedules. For now, however, they’re sticking to their original plans. We’ll keep you posted if there’s a change.
[] News you’d probably never notice: Cornwall police cruisers will continue to patrol the Heights, Campmeeting and Chautauqua areas next year. A renewed five-year contract, just signed, officially begins in January. Across Route 117, patrol responsibilities rest mainly with South Londonderry Township police.
[] Hard to believe, but Santa will be here in about 30 days. He’ll arrive Dec. 10 around 11:30 a.m. at the fire hall where youngsters of all ages will find favors, sandwiches, soup and hot chocolate. (Volunteer bakers: please bring cookies in early that morning.)
[] If Pennsylvania’s environmental protection agency gives its OK, work could begin this spring on a link connecting the borough’s water supply to the Campmeeting’s during emergencies. Crews finished a similar connection between the Heights and Mt. Gretna borough nearly two years ago.
[] If rain on your wedding day is a lucky omen, imagine the good fortune a hurricane portends. Thanks to Wilma, Le Sorelle co-owner Stephanie Lamont Bost, now safely back from Cancun, spent most of her honeymoon without electricity, phones or a change of clothes.
33 Years (or more) a turkey vulture can live. “Tolouse,” oldest known turkey vulture, is still attracting visitors at the San Francisco Zoo. For other facts, including the revelation that male and female turkey vultures look alike, their poop is actually a sanitizer, and despite excellent daylight vision they see poorly in the dark, check out the official turkey vulture website:
100 Hunters carrying shotguns, bows and flintlock muzzle-loaded rifles will be roaming Governor Dick’s parkland Nov. 30-Dec. 3. It’ll be the first deer hunt allowed on the grounds since the late Clarence Shock left the 1,100-acre park in his will over 50 years ago. A Lebanon County judge decided last month the limited, antlerless deer hunt is needed to curb a deer population the forest can no longer support.
110 Trees planted in the Campmeeting’s Memorial Tree Program over the past four years. For $100, donors may plant a tree with a memorial plaque honoring a friend or relative. Supervisor Merv Lentz (; tel. 964-2033) coordinates the plantings, which are normally dogwoods or evergreen trees that won’t grow more than about 40 ft. tall. (A similar program, involving both trees and memorial benches, is underway at Governor Dick Park. See the park’s latest e-mail newsletter [ Also visit their website:])
750 to 1,000 Kilowatt-hours the average household uses a month --- a fact Met Ed passed along recently in reviewing electrical service with area residents.
Mt. Gretna’s power comes from a substation next to Lebanon Valley College’s softball field in Annville, then travels down Routes 934, 322 and 241 until it reaches us via Mt. Gretna Road. Homes in about three blocks of the Heights are on a separate line. Officials say it’s possible to reroute power from one line to another if they suspect an outage will be lengthy.
(Two recent Mt. Gretna outages originated at the Annville substation. Met Ed says they’ve fixed the problem, and it shouldn’t reoccur. Falling trees hitting lines north of town, near Black Lane and Old Mt. Gretna Road, caused two other recent power failures; the utility’s foresters continually look at potential tree problems and have scheduled their next major re-trimming project here for 2007.)
Should you phone the power company in an outage even if you suspect your neighbors have already called? Yes. Met Ed’s computers detect commonalities where outages occur and automatically issue “trouble tickets” that diagnose probable causes. Outage reporting number: 1-888-544-4877.
Other Met Ed facts: Emergency crews work 16 hours on, eight hours off, until they’ve restored power. The company replaced many insulators throughout the Chautauqua and Campmeeting areas last year. They’ve also added protective equipment and new flashing indicators that show problems on lines and underground transformers.

[] My contract for four phones is due to expire this month, and I'm seriously thinking of changing but would rather not. I’ve been with AT&T/Cingular since the inception of the darn things and am concerned enough to write them or somebody about their tardiness in doing something. Would hearing from their Mt. Gretna clients improve anything?
<> It might. Why not go to the top? Stan Sigman is president and CEO of Cingular, the nation’s largest cellphone provider. Write to him at Cingular Wireless, Glenridge Highlands Two, 5565 Glenridge Connector, Atlanta, GA 30342.
Cingular’s regional press spokeswoman says their engineers have decided that Verizon’s tower along Mine Road is “not a good location to complement the strengths of our network.” So they’re looking for an alternative site. (Those, however, are the same engineers who first declared they’d licked the Mt. Gretna cellular problem with their new tower in back of Sycamore Hill RV trailer sales, east of Route 72. However strong the coverage patterns may have appeared to Cingular’s engineers in New Jersey, nobody in Mt. Gretna we’ve talked to has yet been able to make their Cingular phones work.)
Meanwhile, other cellular companies may be looking at adding their antennas to Verizon’s Mine Road tower. Sprint says it’ll do exactly that. Others may follow. Verizon spokeswoman Laura Merritt tells us they “can’t say whether discussions with other carriers are going on until decisions are final and become a matter of public record.” Good policy? Maybe. But it doesn’t help anybody trying to figure out which cell phone plan to buy.
T-Mobile’s area engineering and operations director Bryan Fleming says they have one site in service just south of Mt. Gretna near the Turnpike and plan two others in Mt. Hope and Elstonville. “We’re now reviewing Mt. Gretna for our 2006-2007 build plan,” he adds.
[] Why don’t they have a sign telling drivers exiting Route 72 at the Route 117 intersection which way to turn to get to Mt. Gretna? A truck driver trying to make deliveries last week told me he wound up in Cornwall before discovering he should have turned left, not right, when he got to Route 117.
<> It’s true. Unless you know where you’re going, you don’t have much of a clue at the bottom of the Route 72/117 exit ramp. Which way to Mt. Gretna? Left? Right? Take your pick. But PennDOT’s Lebanon County sign foreman Tony Travis is a man of action. Informed of the problem yesterday, Tony says he’ll order new signs this morning and have them up in about four weeks.
[] How will Mt. Gretna borough fill the vacancy created by the Oct. 7 death of Nancy Bressi, whose name was on the ballot this week?
<> Council president Chuck Allwein replies: “In the event of a resignation or death, council has the duty to appoint a replacement. We reviewed a list of candidates similar to what we considered Nancy’s fit on the council. We prioritized the list and made plans to contact those people. Fortunately, our first choice agreed to serve. Because of the timing of the election on Nov. 8 and our regular meeting on the 14th, the whole procedure was a bit awkward, but was approved by our attorney and the head of Lebanon County’s voter registration. We will announce and vote on this appointment at our Nov. 14 meeting.”

Seeking a Christmas gift for someone who loves “all things Gretnan?”
Here are some suggestions--all mentioned in previous issues of this newsletter and all with ties to Mt. Gretna. Most are readily available; let us know if you don’t know where to find them:
[] Artwork. Several years ago we published a list of all the Mt. Gretna artists we could think of. Naturally, it was incomplete. So here’s our updated list (probably also incomplete) of artists likely to have artwork that’s perfect for your gift list: Barbara Acker (pastels, watercolors); Glen Acker (digital and film photography, photo restoration); Arline Althouse (folk art); Shelby Applegate (mixed-media); Cindy Becker (jewelry); Eva Bender (watercolors); Jerry Boltz (carvings); Andy Boucher (watercolors, oils); Russ Burke (stained glass); Rodney Cammauf (photography); Art Clagett (photography); Kate Dolan (multimedia); Amy Dove (textiles); Elizabeth Stutzman (paintings); Barbara Fishman (watercolors, acrylics, oils); Ryan Fretz (clay and porcelain); Madeline Grey (photography); Dale Grundon (stained glass); Carolyn Hartman (watercolors); Juanita Hetrick (photography); Erika Iskowitz (fibers); Todd Klick (graphic arts); Larry Lombardo (watercolors); Sally Marisic (jewelry); Les Miller (jewelry); Ellen Nicholas (watercolors and art teacher); Pearle Kamp Parsells (glass and chinaware); Nancy Rogers (pottery); Floss Russell (pottery); Eleanor Sarabia (watercolors, oils); Lou Schellenberg (oils); Peg Smith (stained glass); Sharon Teaman (jewelry); Fred Swarr (multimedia); Royal "Tuffy" Travitz (stained glass).
[] Books, including Charlotte Valentine’s “The Buried Treasure of Mt. Gretna,” Jack Bitner’s “Mt. Gretna: A Coleman Legacy,” Veda Boyd’s “One Came to Stay,” Jack Shropp’s “Unbeatable,” “It’s A Fine Line” by art show co-founder Bruce Johnson, and “Mt. Gretna Eats,” the fire company’s celebrated cookbook.
[] Classes, such as watercolor instruction by Barb Fishman or yoga by Pam Willeman or Kathy Smith.
[] Collectables, including T-shirts and sweatshirts from past years’ art shows (available from Karl Gettle). Also, those popular fire company fund-raisers: coffee mugs, afghans and (soon to be available) stoneware crocks that make a perfect flowerpot for home decoration or a decorative container for cookies or fruit.
[] Gift Certificates to The Timbers, Hideaway and Le Sorelle restaurants.
[] Other ideas: tablecloths from La Cigale; season tickets to performances by Gretna Music or Gretna Theater; or CDs (including “Sunday Standards” and a Christmas album “On This Day”) by Timbers’ musical director Andy Roberts’s Four Piece Quartet; also, Ellen Ebright Brighton’s contemporary Christian album, “My Tribute.” Another art show co-founder, Reed Dixon, also offers Mt. Gretna prints and other artwork. And a few copies of the 30-minute PBS mini-documentary “Golden Days In Mount Gretna” are, we understand, still available.
Need help finding any of these suggestions? Drop us a note. We’ll send details on how to track ‘em down.
Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. Our continuing thanks to our many contributors who regularly send us the news as well as to those who help disseminate it via the Web at Thanks also to the many folks who share this letter with friends and neighbors both here and around the world.

And this special request to readers changing their e-mail addresses: Please mention your old address when reporting a new one. With our e-mail address files bulging and our organizational skills also approaching their limits, we need your help: Telling us which addresses to remove as we add new ones helps impart a bit of order to our sometimes chaotic world.


{::} 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 cheerfully send 10 percent of your bill as a donation to our firefighters. Tel. (717) 664-4673 or 273-4500.
{::} Enjoy Mt. Gretna’s beauty through windows that positively sparkle. Schoolteachers Faith and Brad clean your windows, promising “sunshiny service that’s sure to please.” Mention this message, and they’ll give 10 percent of their fee to Mt. Gretna’s fire company. Sunshine Window Washing: . Tel. 964-2212.


We often precede our regular newsletters with what we refer to as a “call for articles” --- ideas, questions and news submitted by readers. Here’s the “call” that preceded this issue, our 53d:

From: Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2005 11:44 AM
Subject: Ghosts, Goblins & More in Mt. Gretna (Pls. Forward)

Spectators could scarcely believe their eyes. But last Friday, Mt. Gretna’s Halloween Parade was the biggest anybody here had ever seen. Some said it lasted a full 12 minutes, up from seven minutes, maybe five, in years gone by. At the fire company’s post-parade cakewalk, goblins, ghosts and other revelers broke all previous records, devouring every cookie in sight and gobblin’ up 200 hot dogs in a single fell swoop. Yes, SuperPumpkin was there, in full costume. And the official Mt. Gretna Halloween Band. Plus more than a hundred costumed marchers – some with pink floppy ears, others with big red noses, and a nefarious few in sorcerer’s hats casting evil spells. (See it all at

Halloween trick or treaters will be out again tonight (Monday, Oct. 31), the date borough and county officials have earmarked as “trick or treat” night.

We’ll have reports on these and other developments in the next issue of Mt. Gretna’s Newsletter. So send in your reports now, while they’re fresh in mind. The address is

Meanwhile, a few items in this preview bulletin to help bring you up to date:

[] Yes, they will have that limited deer hunt in Governor Dick’s woodland Nov. 30-Dec 3. A Lebanon County judge reasoned that even though the donor’s will banned hunting, its intent was to protect and preserve the forest. The deer herd, said the judge, has simply grown larger than the 1,100-acre park can support.

[] The first leaf pickups began in the Chautauqua today; they’ll come by again for a second collection Nov. 14. Chautauqua’s brush pickups start Nov. 28, with a second round scheduled Dec. 12. In the Heights and Stoberdale, crews have already begun making pickups; they’ll continue through November. And in the Campmeeting, the amiable Merv Lentz picks up leaves anytime, whenever residents set them out. No municipal leaf collection services are available, however, in Conewago Hills, Timber Hills and Timber Bridge.

[] And our buzzard patrol needs your help again this year. They’ll have a meeting tomorrow (Nov. 1) behind the fire hall starting at 4 p.m. USDA officials will be there as well. Our volunteers have helped make Mt. Gretna’s turkey vulture relocation efforts the most successful in the state, officials say.

[] Coming up Sunday Nov. 6: A fund-raiser breakfast buffet (pancakes, sausages and a few surprises”) at the fire company, from 8 a.m. to noon.

[] And speaking of good things to eat, don’t forget the Third Annual Mt. Gretna Soup Cook-off Nov. 12, noon to 2 p.m. Once again the area’s favorite chefs will be there, competing for top honors with delightful offerings. (Among last year’s creations: “Miss Kitty’s Seafood Gumbo,” “Brieutiful Mushroom,” “Italian Wedding” and about a dozen others). It all takes place at the fire company, which benefits from proceeds.

[] Nov. 12 is also the same day, of course, the 7th annual art studio weekend tour begins. Eight Mt. Gretna artists (including potter Nancy Rogers, whose name we inadvertently omitted last month) will be among 31 opening their studios to the public in a tour that spans three counties. Details:

[] Finally, it may be our imagination, but it seems like more people than ever these days are interested in yoga. (“Healthy Aging” author Andrew Weil, MD, said in TIME magazine this month, “ I couldn’t be more pleased to see yoga becoming so mainstream in our part of the world; I think it will increase the numbers of healthier and happier people here.”) Maybe that’s why Mt. Gretnan Kathy Smith is launching a new class at the fire hall on Wednesday afternoons starting Nov. 9. Kathy’s a fitness trainer at Hershey Medical Center, Hershey Foods and the Hotel Hershey. Details: or (717) 274-8486.

This is just a brief glimpse at what’s happening. We’ll have more details on these and other items in our next newsletter, now being prepared by our far-flung network of correspondents reporting from Colebrook to Cornwall and all points between, plus our bureaus in New York, London and Madrid. Mt. Gretna News never sleeps in its quest to bring you the news, fair and balanced --- well, maybe a little off kilter now and then, but all in good fun for folks who enjoy life and living here.