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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 55 Jan. 24, 2006
Where's Mt. Gretna's Winter? Shhh. . .
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 11:59:16 -0500


Dare we repeat it? It’s risky. Almost like a sportscaster’s slip, in the bottom of the seventh, that the pitcher’s got a no-hitter going. Yet the topic’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue:

Where’s the snow? Where’s the ice? Where’s the howling winds, the cracked tree limbs, the sustained power outages?

No skaters on the lake. No snowplows swinging through the streets. Scarcely a trace of the sights that normally justify long winter escapes for nearly half of Mt. Gretna’s population. Those now fighting Bonita Springs’ breakfast crowds and Sarasota’s early bird special throngs must surely be scratching their heads and wondering: What are they escaping from? At what price(s)? And why?

Yet dangling over the heads of those who stayed behind is the virtual certainty of at least one blizzard (and numerous buzzards) waiting in the wings this winter. Moreover, the temperatures, if unseasonable, are not exactly balmy either. And here and there, Mother Nature has left her mark (see “An UnGretna-like Winter,”

Year ‘rounders scurry about town—making daily trips to the post office seemingly as much for occasional human contact as for the mail itself--then rush back to their cars, their homes and their cozy fireplaces. In those brief encounters, familiar topics keep cropping up:

What’s happening at the store? Steady determination, we’re told, as entrepreneurs continue their pursuit to satisfy the regulators and make structural changes required so they can finally open that long-promised Italian restaurant. By summer we hope. Maybe sooner. And, with any luck, with newspapers and a few grocery essentials to boot.

When will we have more cell phone service here? The picture’s still murky. Sprint says they met unexpected delays and may not begin serving Mt. Gretna until late March or early April. T-Mobile says flatly that Mt. Gretna didn’t make the cut in their 2006-2007 “build plan.” And Cingular’s still trying to figure out what, if anything, they’re going to do to launch cellular service here. Meanwhile, readers keep asking us about Nextel, which recently merged with Sprint. It turns out that Nextel’s Pennsylvania customers are served by a competitor, curiously called “Nextel Partners.” Officials tell us it’ll be some time before they’ll have all the post-merger machinations sorted out. So, for now, Verizon’s the only game in town.

On other fronts, the news is more encouraging. We’re promised a new roadway through the center of town (see below). Cicada Festival planners are brimming with excitement about their new season. The Arts Council is buzzing. Outdoor recreation plans are soaring. And everybody who’s sticking around this winter seems to be making the most of the time, the solitude and the quiet. So when spring finally does arrive, they’ll be ready. So will Mt. Gretna.


Planners in charge of the roadways hereabouts are starting to collect community reactions to their ideas for converting Rte. 117 into another of Pennsylvania’s Scenic Byways.

What’s a scenic byway? It’s part of a national program begun 14 years ago to upgrade roads that pass through areas having unique scenic, cultural, historic, recreational, natural or archeological qualities. Pennsylvania now has 13 such routes. (See One argument in favor of making the route an official scenic byway is that it might get a higher priority for regular maintenance, which some residents feel has been sorely lacking in the past.

Whether the route that passes through Mt. Gretna would even qualify for scenic byway status is by no means certain.

What is certain, however, is that Rte. 117, or at least that 5.2-mile stretch of it extending from Rte. 72 to Colebrook, is deteriorating and that PennDOT plans a major resurfacing effort next year or perhaps 2008. So, one way or the other, midsummer construction, with all its hassles, is in our future, whether or not the route ever becomes a scenic byway.

Officials gathered with community leaders earlier this month in what likely will be a series of meetings over the next year or so to find out whether folks in Mt. Gretna and West Cornwall, South Annville and South Londonderry townships even favor the idea. If so, they’d like to know what key priorities ought to go into the planning. They also expect to form a task force that would combine the views of area residents, environmental groups, Governor Dick Park officials and others.

Some attending a public meeting at the Lebanon County courthouse last week raised questions about increased auto and bicycle traffic, ongoing maintenance, preserving trees, maintaining adequate parking, lighting arrangements, public safety issues and the impact a major reconstruction project would have during the height of Mt. Gretna’s busiest seasons.

Several also pointed out that although scenic byways typically benefit areas seeking to boost commercial activities, Mt. Gretna’s traditions are largely noncommercial, centered on artistic and recreational pursuits. “Mt. Gretna doesn’t fit my idea of a tourist destination,” said one resident.

Officials emphasized that all such concerns would be top priorities in deciding whether scenic byway status was in the community’s best interests. They also emphasized that although resurfacing Rte. 117 was a virtual certainty at some point, converting the highway into a scenic byway would require agreement among all municipalities affected by the change. Mt. Gretna borough president Chuck Allwein said last week borough council members would likely pass a resolution signaling their agreement with the idea.


Now in its 12th year, the Cicada Festival promises something for music lovers of every stripe Aug. 8-15. Opening the seven-day fest with a Tuesday night tribute to the Beach Boys, they'll present the Hershey Symphony on Wednesday, Pat Garrett's country music band on Thursday, with a Frank Sinatra impressionist the following Monday. Closing the performances Tuesday will be another appearance by "The Mudflaps," a popular local rock and roll band whose concert here last year was sold out.
Organizers say they're not yet ready to begin accepting ticket orders but promise details well before the shows begin at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse. Cicada’s box office opens June 1.


Mt. Gretna’s third annual "Got the Nerve" triathlon gets underway May 27.
With a 500-yard swim in the chilly waters of Lake Conewago, a 14.8-mile bicycle race up and down the mountain, and a five-kilometer run along the rail trail, the event attracted over 500 competitors from coast to coast last year. All for the benefit of a Washington, D.C.-based organization, The Myelin Project, which probes neurological disorders like those that ten years ago crippled the triathlon’s upbeat organizer, 30-year-old Chris Kaag.
First-place finisher in the men’s division last year was Adam Webber, who completed the circuit in 1 hour, five minutes and 32 seconds. First place in the women’s division went to Lindsay Texter-Camera, with a time of 1:18:11. The event included some contestants in their 60s and 70s as well as five Mt. Gretnans (Bill Gifford, Tara Mootz, Becky Davis, Pat Allwein and John Noullet).
Details of 2006’s event appear at

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Water systems at all four Mt. Gretna neighborhoods south of Rte. 117 finally will be connected this spring. Campmeeting officials approved their link to the network, a $47,000 project expected to get state regulatory approvals shortly.

[] Art show funds plus contributions from Mt. Gretna Heights, Mt. Gretna Borough, the Campmeeting and Mt. Gretna’s Water Authority will help pay for that $18,500 propane-powered generator to assure emergency water supplies for firefighting and other uses. The unit should be installed in March.

[] If Cottages Could Talk is the historical society’s program this Sunday. Cindy Kercher, owner of a cottage once occupied by 1920s Ladies Home Journal writer Ann Hark, joins Jeanette Martin and Harriet Brownsberger (2 p.m., Jan. 29; Mt. Gretna Fire Hall).

[] Mt. Gretna's Arts Council invites inquiries from residents "with a passion for the arts" interested in filling an open position on its board of directors. The council sponsors the Summer Calendar and Summer Premiere and meets monthly on second Tuesdays. Details: or

[] Just as promised, PennDOT’s man-in-charge-of-signs Tony Travis installed those helpful directional signs at the base of Rte. 72’s exit ramps to Rte. 117 last month. Arrows now tell formerly puzzled motorists to turn left for Mt. Gretna, right for Cornwall.

[] If you happen to be at the French-American Cultural Foundation’s swishy gala in Washington DC next Monday (Jan. 30), where they’re flying in chefs from Provence, examine those tablecloths carefully. They’re from LaCigale, Mt. Gretna, Pa.

[] Campmeeting officers hope to fill an unexpected vacancy on their board of managers by inviting interested residents to apply. After appointing an applicant, they’ll ask everyone who expressed interest to stand for election at the August annual meeting. Details: or 964-3481.

[] Gretna Music wants to talk with summer intern applicants interested in working at the box office, helping prepare press releases, handling artist hospitality and similar duties. The positions offer a $3,000 stipend and are tailored to applicants' skills and interests. Details: (717) 361-1508.

[] Rail-trail officials began advertising for bids to build that 1,000 ft. spur into Mt. Gretna this spring. The exit will link the 15-mile Elizabethtown-to-Lebanon trail with Timber Road, making it easier for hikers, cyclists and riders to stop off in Mt. Gretna. See

[] Cornwall police expect grant funding soon for a radar-controlled speed sign like the one PennDOT placed here on loan last summer. A tip o’ the hat to State Rep. Peter Zug and Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

[] A Malvern couple is offering their Campmeeting cottage rent-free this winter to newlyweds whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. “It’s not a big deal,” Sue and Steve Rhoades told Lebanon’s Daily News. “The cottage was available, so it was easy. That’s just our nature.”

[] “Rough Cut,” the documentary of a contract killing NBC’s Dateline previewed last week and produced by Mt. Gretna independent filmmaker Todd Klick, has its next screening at Harrisburg’s Regal Cinema, 1500 Caughey Dr., Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. See Making the Cut,

[] Ceylon and Karen Leitzel, who ignited a spark three years ago with that end-of-summer Big Band bash at the lake, say they'll do it again Aug. 27. They've lined up the "After Hours" band for an evening of music and dancing under the stars.

[] Kathy Snavely -- entrepreneur, college professor, political leader, Sunday School teacher and (among dozens of other things) co-coordinator of Chautauqua's summer programs—has just added another honor: winner of Lebanon's Chamber of Commerce 2005 Athena Award, given annually to outstanding businesswomen.

[] Gretna Music’s April 29 fund-raiser at the McAnney-Hewitt home, 1 Princeton Ave., will feature executive director and organist Michael Murray with board member and singer Betty Long. They’ll perform works by Gustav Mahler.

[] Handcrafted earthenware crocks, featuring a distinctive “Mt. Gretna, Pa.” in burgundy or forest green imprints are now, at $55, the newest fire company decorative fund-raiser. View samples at Gretna Computing (964-1106), just across from the post office, or see

[] Lebanon's master gardeners' new landscape series has just begun, says Mt. Gretnan Ginger Pryor, horticulture program coordinator at Lebanon’s extension building on Cornwall Rd. Seven classes include landscape design, how to choose plants, shade gardening and similar topics. Details: (717) 270-4391.

[] Youngsters at Mt. Gretna’s United Methodist Church invite you to a Valentine candlelight dinner Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. The fare: chicken cordon bleu (vegetarian dinners available on request). Cost: $12 for adults, $5 for children. Reservations, please, by Feb. 8; (964-1851).

[] Seeking a fire company coffee mug to make your set (2001-2005) complete? Tony’s Mining Company restaurant owner Jean Kotkas recently discovered several unsold 2001-2004 mugs and donated them to the fire company for re-sale. Like to buy one? Call 964-3233 or e-mail

[] Cornwall police plan another of those popular VIN-etching events and an identity theft seminar this spring. The free VIN etchings don’t harm a car’s appearance. Insurers sometimes offer discounts for VIN-etched cars. Details coming soon, says Chief Harris.

[] Gretna Music's winter season resumes with the Parisii Quartet Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Elizabethtown College's Leffler center, finishing a two-year series of Beethoven Quartets. Dinner and a discussion, Beethoven and God by George Mason University's Dr. Beth Bullard, precede the event. Reservations: 361-1508.

[] Audubon Quartet supporters hope to avoid surrendering the performers' instruments following an epic lawsuit that rocked the classical music world. A proposed “Audubon Rescue Fund” could preserve the careers of musicians who’ve been a Gretna Music favorite for 25 years. (See December’s MGN #54).

[] Gift shop designers are mum on details of their 2006 Tee-Shirts. Past favorites included rocking chair symbols and memorable messages ("Mt. Gretna, Pa. The way life should be.") Other offerings this year? Garden accent pieces, windchimes and the fire company’s newest fund-raiser, decorative crocks.

[] Actress Amanda Lee Anderson, who spent summers at 216 Pennsylvania Ave. and recently graduated from Susquehanna University, is now touring with My Heart in a Suitcase, performing in Hanover, Philadelphia and Allentown this March. See Says mom Bonnie, “She’d love to see familiar faces.”

[] Former Mt. Gretnan and art show co-founder Reed Dixon sends a reminder that Doris Hogentogler, widow of unforgettable former mayor “Hoagy,” appreciates hearing from old friends. Her address: 130 Tranquility Way, Apt. E, Cape Canaveral, FL 3292-6076.

[] Volunteers dedicated to improving the Conewago Creek (which traverses Mt. Gretna) hold their fifth anniversary membership meeting Wednesday (Jan. 25) in the Lawn Fire Hall at 7 p.m. The group attracts numerous Mt. Gretna residents, including Tri-County Conewago Creek Association president Matt Royer. See

[] The Jigger Shop (964-3704) is accepting summer job applications. Standard age is 16 or older, but the shop hires a few 15-year-olds and "a very select 14-year-old or two." After contacting last year's employees, they interview and hire new staffers soon after Easter.

[] Pennsylvania's Conservation and Natural Resources Department has certified Governor Dick Park's forest stewardship plan. That’s a necessary step, officials say, toward qualifying for additional federal and state grants.

[] The Governor Dick Park Newsletter keeps readers current on year’ round programs at the 1,100-acre park. Add your e-mail address to the free circulation list by sending a request to

[] Hotel Hershey fitness trainer Kathy Smith offers yoga instruction at the fire hall Wednesdays at 2 p.m. A Mt. Gretna resident, Kathy also provides fitness instruction at Hershey Foods and Hershey’s Medical Center. Details: or (717) 274-8486.

[] Valley Road artist Shelby Applegate (; 964-2342) invites everyone to perk up the winter with occasional games of bridge, hearts, and scrabble at her home. "We found that people really enjoy this," says Shelby. "I have five card tables in my living room, more downstairs."

[] Happy 99th birthday (Jan. 29) to Marie Smoker, a Campmeeting resident for over 40 years. The fire company volunteer and Winterite is a minister's wife, shoofly pie and tapioca pudding creator, and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

[] Sadie Bea Kosoff (8 lbs., 6 oz.) joined the family of Jessica and Ed Kosoff Jan. 7. Her mom, who grew up in Mt. Gretna and has lived in four of its seven neighborhoods, worked in architectural engineering before becoming a realtor.

[] Want to add to the surprise shower of 50th Wedding Anniversary (Jan. 28) cards that'll greet Mt. Gretna's "flower lady" Mary Hernley and husband Peter after they return next week from a missionary trip to India? Their address: 260 E. Hernley Rd., Manheim, PA 17545.


[] Are turkey vultures considered raptors?

<> No, according to the folks at Raptors are typically predatory birds. New World vultures (including the Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture and Condors) are scavengers, not raptors. Raptors include hawks, eagles, falcons and some Old-World vultures, found in Africa and Eurasia.
Whatever they’re called, the birds are anything but universally loved. Arizona Republic sportswriter Dan Bickley, lamenting officiating in the Colts-Steelers play-off game this month, wrote, “All across America, the perception of NFL officials has dipped below attorneys, jackals, sportswriters and turkey vultures.”

[] I just read the Mt. Gretna Newsletter piece about the guys who drive the snowplows. What a great job they do. And I wondered if we year 'rounders might help by adopting voluntary guidelines for parking -- maybe by moving our cars to the same side of the street when it snows. Nothing official, mind you. I don't like too many rules. But just something that would be voluntary to facilitate efficient plowing.

<> Bill Care, Mt. Gretna’s SnowPlower-in-Chief, says that’s a wonderful idea. "If people could please move their cars, that would be a good thing."
Although the borough has two officially designated snow emergency routes calling for mandatory vehicle removal (Muhlenberg and Harvard avenues), what snowplow drivers throughout this assemblage of seven sprightly neighborhoods (Campmeeting, Timber Hills, Conewago Hills, Chautauqua, the Heights, Timber Bridge and Stoverdale) must depend on are the very qualities that make Mt. Gretna special: the goodwill and cheerful cooperation of all who dwell here.

[] About last month’s question from a reader who wondered whether Rte. 117 ought to be called simply “Mt. Gretna Road” consistently, all the way from Rte. 72 to Colebrook.

<> Naming (or renaming) local roads is the often daunting task of local municipalities. Although they appreciate fresh suggestions, officials we talked to had little enthusiasm for the idea. They pointed out that at least three other Mt. Gretna Roads already exist—in Elizabethtown, in Mt. Joy and near Campbelltown. Plus, there’s Old Mt. Gretna Road just north of town. So for now, they’re sticking with plain old “Rte. 117.”

[] After buying a cottage here last year we discovered, first hand, the problems turkey vultures can cause. We're part-time residents but would like to help. Whom should we contact?

<> Mt. Gretna's vulture relocation campaign, one of the most successful in Pennsylvania and now in its fifth year, is coordinated by volunteers with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Max Hunsicker heads the effort locally and acknowledges that encouraging the birds to roost elsewhere requires planning, patience and persistence. They have long memories, favor places they’ve been before and sometimes live 20 years or more. Turkey vultures began coming to Mt. Gretna more than 25 years ago. The returning flocks, which once numbered 500 or more, now are down to far more manageable levels. But we still need the concerted efforts of knowledgeable volunteers. To sign up, talk with any volunteer you see patrolling the area at dusk.

WILLIAM H. WOOD, 1928-2005

William H. Wood, 77, passed away last month in Myrtle Beach, SC. A former Mt. Gretnan, he was the son of early Mt. Gretna mayor Stuart Wood and is remembered here as a member of the now well-known 1940s "stand gang," which we’re told included his sister Pat Edris (now living in Sun City, Ariz.), Nancy Besch, Pat Attwood, Pete Light, Jack Bitner and several others sharing fond memories of summers past here. A retired IBM electrical engineer, he was also once employed at RCA, where he was a member of the development team that invented the color television picture tube. Surviving are his wife, Alma Mariani Wood, three sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.


We also note the passing last month of former Mt. Gretna resident and retired Lebanon County President Judge John Walter, 74. A native of Lebanon and a 1953 graduate of Lebanon Valley College, he served in the U. S. Navy before graduating in 1960 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He was appointed a Lebanon County judge by Gov. Milton Shapp and served on the bench from 1975 until his retirement in 1995.
Our favorite Judge Walter story? It happened during the 2004 art show, when, as wife Pat reported to us, a timber rattler found its way through an air conditioning vent and into the Walter's family room. Fortunately their son JD, who'd spent his college years as a landscaper in Texas, knew all about snakes and, with the help of his dad and a forked stick, coaxed their uninvited guest into a big paper bag for a hasty trip to a spot far, far away from the woods surrounding their Mt. Gretna Heights home.


22 Oral histories recorded so far in the Historical Society's project to capture more than 100 memories of people—now in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s—who spent their early years in Mt. Gretna. A few are even in their 100s. Project coordinators Tom Mayer and Jack Anderson say the recordings, now being gathered by six volunteer interviewers, will someday be available to the public, possibly through the Internet.

55 Deer taken by those 100 hunters during the limited hunt at Governor Dick Park Nov. 30-Dec. 3. Results reported by the hunters themselves suggest the element of surprise probably played a big role. They shot 42 deer the first day at the 1,105-acre park, where hunting had been banned for decades. The next day (with 58 hunters still eligible to hunt) only seven deer were taken, with two more on Friday and four on the final day.
The first-day tally surprised some who had thought that maybe 35 deer might be taken throughout the four-day hunt. One staffer from Pennsylvania’s Department of Natural Resources called it “a good start,” but predicted more hunts would be needed over the next few years to restore a “severely degraded” environment. Deer populations can double every two or three years, said DNR’s Ellen Roane. Park officials will evaluate results this spring and then decide whether to continue the special hunts under a court order allowing hunting over a five-year period.

100 Pieces of mail deposited on a typical day in that familiar blue U.S. Postal Service mailbox found outside the Mt. Gretna post office. So it’s probably in no jeopardy from the postal service's current campaign to remove mailboxes that collect 50 pieces or less per day. Mt. Gretna postmaster Steve Strickler says our bulging community mailbox on some days attracts 300 to 400 pieces of mail.
Any plans to move the box to another spot that might make it easier for motorists to drop off mail from the driver's side of their cars? No, says Steve. Curiously, until now, no one's even asked. But he acknowledges that the mailbox's present location does encourage westbound motorists to swing across the eastbound lane and drop off their mail, sometimes making illegal U-turns afterwards. “We know it happens frequently,” says police chief Bruce Harris. “If that caused an accident, the driver on the wrong side of the road would be at fault.”
Some communities are now locating outside mailboxes along one-way roadways, enabling driver’s-side deposits. “If the Chautauqua ever plans a remodel job at the post office, maybe they’d take a look at a drive-through mail drop,” says the chief.

$500 Scholarships available to four students this year through the Mt. Gretna Arts Council. Awards will go to applicants studying creative writing, theater, music or the arts. Deadline: May 1. The scholarships are open to all Lebanon County students and to permanent Mt. Gretna residents pursuing post-secondary education in the categories cited. Details:, e-mail: or phone 964-3481.

1000 People jumping into the icy Atlantic along North Carolina’s shore on New Year’s Day, led by Mt. Gretna Polar Bear veteran Randy Reed and son Adam. Dressed up in their traditional Mt. Gretna garb, they attracted a lot of media attention. (See “We missed Momma Bear Evelyn Duncan, who claimed she always prepared for Mt. Gretna’s January 1st spectacle by eating an extra cookie each day,” says Randy. He recalls one year, after the zany swimmers were banned at the lake, jumping into Evelyn’s fish pond. Their leap sent the frenzied fish flying, he says. Meanwhile, Evelyn, a polar bear for 15 years who’s now motor-homing her way through Florida, will try again this Thursday (Jan. 26), a date local forecasters predict could be Florida’s coldest day of the year.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. Our thanks to the many, many Mt. Gretnans who help create this Newsletter, including associate editor Bruce Baxter, 14, who contributes news, ideas and enthusiasm. Also thanks to the many readers who circulate this bulletin to friends and neighbors, often by printing copies and mailing them to faraway places. And thanks to the folks at Gretna Computing who, with skill and dedication, maintain the website that assures you always have access to current and previous issues at