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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 57
Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2006


If you’re fretting about another summer of soaring gas prices, relax. In Mt. Gretna, you won’t even have to leave town. It’ll be brimming with more things to do than ever.

Just by walking down the street, you'll be able to learn everything from cheese-making at home to key strategies of the Battle of Gettysburg--related by Gen. George G. Meade himself! Or delve into the multifaceted mind of Benjamin Franklin and the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In one of the busiest summer program offerings in Mt. Gretna's history, there’ll also be tips on “maintaining your brain,” fixing up your finances, and the latest biotechnology advances in medicine. In all, more than 100 separate events in the Chautauqua series alone.

And that’s just for starters—merely a glimpse of all that’s coming this summer. Also on tap are the delights that Gretna Music, Gretna Theater, and the Heritage Festival are about to unfurl. Plus the Tabernacle series, bringing back in July “Sound of Music” inspiration Elisabeth von Trapp, whose appearance here two years ago attracted an audience of over 750. Add to the mix those classes at the Heights community center, a triathlon drawing over 500 contestants from throughout the country, and delightful pursuits of proven potential—roller-skating, miniature golf, hikes along the rail trail and climbs up the tower at Governor Dick for breathtaking views of five counties.

Yes, in Mt. Gretna this year, as never before, the dilemma will not be whether there’s anything to do, but how to squeeze it all in. (Hint: You can’t.)

Which is why, we suppose, some people are wondering about the proposed scenic byway that could lead to an increase in the number of summer visitors. By how much? Nobody knows. What is known, however, is that making Route 117 a scenic byway would usher in federal and state funding for roadway improvements that everybody agrees are long overdue. Whether or not Route 117 ever becomes a scenic byway, however, PennDOT does plan to expand the roadway (probably with wide berms, like Cornwall Road), making it safer not only for cars but also cyclists, runners and hikers. When would construction begin? Not until next year, and probably not before late August or September. What’s different about this project is that state and local officials are calling for widespread opinions before planning even starts. They intend to hold a public meeting at the Governor Dick Nature Center sometime this July, inviting comments not only from a task force of various civic and municipal groups but also from environmentalists, businesses and residents. “At this point, nothing’s on or off the table,” county planner Tom Kotay told borough officials last night. “We just want to hear what people think about the idea.” So far, he says, those he's talked to like the concept.

Meanwhile, work continues on several other fronts.

Rail-trail officials say construction on that 1,000-ft. connector trail leading down to Timber Road will begin in April.

Crews at the store are already busy, even on weekends, getting the 80-year-old building ready for its new role as an emporium offering pizza and other Italian delicacies. They hope to have it ready by Memorial Day weekend. Local residents, who haven't been able to buy a loaf of bread in town for more than two years, are keeping their fingers crossed that a few grocery essentials and out-of-town newspapers will also be part of the daily fare.

And, finally, we hear, in a few days Mt. Gretnans will have two cellular services to choose from. Sprint says it’ll activate its antenna, perched alongside Verizon’s, on that tower near Mine Road Mar. 24.

Getting a new pizza parlor, summers with Sherlock Holmes, having two cell phone companies to choose from and fixing up a roadway. Such things may not be big news in most places. But in Mt. Gretna they are. And that’s the charm.


Lake Conewago, which is normally drained every year for routine maintenance to piers and other structures, will get some extra attention this spring.
A portion of Lake View Drive will close to traffic for several weeks so work crews can also complete repairs to the dam, located along the lake’s western edge.
Phil Schneider, who helps direct operations at the lake, says the work—undertaken in cooperation with Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Resources—is a proactive effort to “enhance safety and assure continued viability of the dam.”
Only the section of Lake View Drive between Route 117 and Conewago Hill Road will close, perhaps as soon as today. Unless weather or construction delays slow work schedules, crews should finish the project and reopen the roadway around Memorial Day weekend.


Gretna Music launches this year what organizers hope might lay the groundwork for a traditional jazz festival in Mt. Gretna.

They’ll kick things off June 9 with a Friday night concert by jazz and blues singer Leon Redbone. Then on Saturday, thanks to a gift from instrument restoration specialists Mike and Linda Shank (of Shank’s Strings in Elizabethtown), they’ll expand the series with Saturday afternoon jazz concerts. At 2 p.m., Lancaster’s Dixieland Express will be at the Jigger Shop. The fest then moves to the Playhouse, where there’ll be a 4:30 p.m. appearance by The Tarnished Six, a Dixieland jazz band that began in State College nearly four decades ago and still has two of its six original members.

That’s followed on Saturday evening by The New Black Eagles Jazz Band, returning for its 30th year at Mt. Gretna. The Boston-based group has become a Central Pennsylvania favorite.

Executive director Michael Murray says Gretna Music will also present jazz concerts in each of the next three months: vocals and piano with Patricia Barber July 22, pianist Bill Charlap Aug. 12, and Eddie Palmieri, piano, and Brian Lynch, trumpet, on Sept. 2.

And the Sunday jazz worship service? That’s on the schedule, too: Sunday, June 11 at 11 a.m.


Want to get your ticket order in early for Cicada performances likely to be this summer’s sellouts? Printable order forms now appear on the Internet at The website is also where you’ll be able to sample some of the summer entertainment—including tunes by The Mudflaps, a Frank Sinatra impressionist, Pat Garrett’s country music band and more. All shows are $8. Ticket orders will be honored according to earliest postmarks. But be patient: tickets won’t be mailed until after the box office opens in June.

IN BRIEF (45 words or less)

[] Breakfast connoisseurs John Hambright and Dale Grundon give it their coveted “Five Fork Rating”: The annual $6 breakfast this Saturday (Mar. 18) at Trinity Church (near Colebrook, south of the turnpike) offers eggs, pancakes, sausage, ham, potatoes, scrapple, pastries and fruit. Time: 6-10 a.m.

[] Borough officials invite reactions to two different prototype streetlight designs they’ve installed at each end of Temple Avenue. The lights could replace aging lamps that are no longer repairable. One spot that may soon need new fixtures: Muhlenberg Avenue, scheduled for reconstruction starting this month.

[] Construction crews begin work next month on a 1,000-ft. spur linking the 15-mile Elizabethtown-to-Lebanon rail trail to Timber Road. When completed, the $115,000 grant-funded project may finally answer a question that hikers finishing the Colebrook to Cornwall leg often ask: “Where’s Mt. Gretna?” Details:

[] Arts Council member Cindy Myer reminds patrons planning to buy ads in the 2006 summer calendar that tomorrow (Mar. 15) is the deadline. Payments must accompany the $35 ads, which, she says, “are a great way to support a worthy activity.”

[] Gretna Music will hold its Spring Gala Apr. 7 at the Elizabethtown College president’s mansion. For information and tickets (that include admission to the L’Ensemble Pennetier concert that evening), telephone (717) 361-1508.

[] Gretna Music’s concert Apr. 7 begins at 7:30 p.m. in Elizabethtown College’s Leffler center. A buffet dinner ($20; reservations required by Apr. 3) and 6:30 p.m. lecture by WITF-FM’s Dick Strawser precede L’Ensemble Pennetier’s performance of works by Stravinsky, Bartok and Debussy. Details: (717) 361-1508.

[] Handcrafted earthenware crocks join the fire company’s parade of “most popular” fund-raisers ever. With “Mt. Gretna, Pa.” imprinted in burgundy or forest green ($55), they’re displayed at Gretna Computing (964-1106) and Also available: wall hangings with postcard scenes of Mt. Gretna’s earliest days ($35).

[] A bald eagle in Mt. Gretna? Yes, says Mike Bell, reporting what he believes may be a first sighting of the national emblem here Mar. 6 at Lake Conewago. Bald eagles, sometimes living 40 years or more, are among the largest birds in North America.

[] Rail-trail fundraisers will hold another golf tournament at Fairview G.C. June 3. Tournament coordinator Paul Ceresini invites calls (717-867-1402) from prospective sponsors and players.

[] Judges for the 2006 art show arrive Apr. 22 to choose this year’s exhibitors. They include a new board member of the National Association of Independent artists, a “Judges’ Choice” award winner from the 2005 show, a potter and a jeweler, all from Pennsylvania.

[] Campmeeting summer resident Dorothy Gray, whose Mt. Gretna memories extend to childhood days, looks forward to opera’s Playhouse debut (scenes from Othello) June 3. A Floridian in winter, she heads the Sarasota Opera Guild’s popular Prologue series of educational talks before each performance.

[] Governor Dick Nature Center seeks memorabilia relating to Mt. Gretna and, especially, the Governor Dick area itself. Park officials hope to have several items (as gifts or loans) in time for their dedication and open house Apr. 1. Leave messages at 964-3808 or e-mail

[] Gretna Music’s founder Carl Ellenberger joins executive director Michael Murray and board member Betty Long in a 3 p.m. performance of music for organ, flute and voice at the Hewitt-McAnney home May 6 (previously scheduled Apr. 29). Free (donations benefit Gretna Music). Reservations: (717) 361-1508.

[] Elisabeth von Trapp’s concert July 15 tops this summer’s Tabernacle series. Others likely to draw big crowds include jazz worship services by Andy Roberts June 25 and Bob Troxell Aug. 13, New Holland Band July 2 and Susquehanna Chorale Aug. 20. Details:

[] Dr. Howard Applegate’s presentation in this summer’s book review series has changed. He’ll discuss Patricia O’Toole’s When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House June 27. Professor of English Kevin Pry reviews Adam Nicholson’s Seize the Fire, chronicling the Battle of Trafalgar, Aug. 1.

[] Mt. Gretna's Winterites, meeting at the fire hall on first Tuesdays October-April for 56 years, just finished a program describing Mt. Gretna in the 1930s. Next topic (Apr. 4): "Container Plantings." Mary Ellen McCarty (964-3498) is president. Betty Dissinger (964-3515) coordinates duplicate bridge events.

[] Where’s the best breakfast deal in town? The fire company’s eat-what-you-want, pay-what-you-want fundraiser Mar. 26, 8 a.m. - 12 noon. . . with sausage, eggs, potatoes, egg dish, pastries and beverages. Your contributions help those answering our calls, protecting our homes, sometimes even risking their lives.

[] Add another entry to Mt. Gretna’s growing roster of home-based businesses. At Studio 33 (533 Woodland Circle, Timber Bridge), artist/musician/designer Joe Romberger gives haircuts and colorings (“no perms or nails”), considers hair “wearable art,” and opens whenever customers need him—“even Sundays.” Tel. 964-3399.

[] The Arts Council will award four $500 scholarships May 27 to permanent Mt. Gretna residents or Lebanon County students studying creative writing, theater, art, or music studies at post-secondary schools. Details: e-mail or P. O. Box 378, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.

[] Governor Dick’s latest newsletter reports on opportunities to name park benches in memory of loved ones, openings for both volunteers and paid interns, and fresh air cures for NDD (Nature Deficit Disorders). E-mail your subscription request to

[] Correction: That road rally leaving from Mt. Gretna’s Chautauqua Drive parking lot (and benefiting homeless mothers in Lebanon) starts Saturday, June 17, not Sunday (Father’s Day). Last year, the event attracted 80 drivers. To be a sponsor or contestant, call 389-0296 or e-mail

[] Midlife crisis? English-style horseback rider Linda Bell, normally nattily attired in breeches, must shop before making her first visit to a Cody, Wyoming dude ranch this July. Advises a friend: “You’d better bring western boots and jeans. Otherwise, they’ll laugh you right outta the barn.”


5 Power outages since last September that affected Mt. Gretnans. Everybody in town was without power for an hour and a half Sept. 16. The longest outage, lasting three and a half hours, occurred Oct. 9 and darkened 300 homes. About half of us lost power the following day, but only for 20 minutes. And two other outages hit 27 customers on one occasion, eight homes on another.
So whatever happened to the days of pervasive power failures, when halfway-done Christmas dinners languished in hundreds of slowly cooling Mt. Gretna ovens? Or those sustained outages lasting 24 hours or more, testing the patience of even those yearning for simpler times? Are there fewer outages now because dozens of Mt. Gretnans several years ago decided to buy shiny new (read “now only scarcely used”) generators? Met Ed’s statisticians don’t track coincidences. But they do smile a lot.

6 Volunteers honored at this year’s Fire Company appreciation dinner. Members of the hospitality committee, they serve food, plant flowers, and help with block shoots, pig roasts, breakfasts, lunches with Santa, art show parking “or whatever comes up”: Sally Bomberger, Becky Briody, Peggy Seibert and Sue Sutcliffe, all of Mt. Gretna. Plus fire company treasurer Glenda Wilkinson, who lives in Manheim, and Anna Sullivan, a long-time Mt. Gretnan who moved to the family home in Lebanon after her mother died. “I may not live here anymore, but my heart is still here,” says Anna.
“People give their time and talents in many ways,” adds Karen Lynch, who helped coordinate the event and presented awards. “To run a volunteer fire company, it does take a village.”

15 Wedding receptions held at the Heights Community Building since its 2001 restoration. It's also a popular spot for family reunions, private parties and classes--with space for 100, a kitchen, playground, pavilion and parking. Richard Steinhauer handles reservations (964-2362).

99 Golden wedding anniversary cards awaiting Mt. Gretna “flower lady” Mary Hernley and husband Peter on their return from a mission to India this winter. “We were overwhelmed,” says Mary, a national director of the American Council of the Ramabai Mukti Mission. Most of what she earns from selling flowers each summer goes to help missionaries around the world. Touched by the many expressions of love she received, Mary says, “I want to thank everyone for being a part of our special Golden Anniversary, showing love to us and to the needs of the Lord’s work in India.”
When will she return to her usual spot, selling flowers along Route 117? “My guess—and it’s only a guess, is around Easter time—unless it warms up fast and stays warm.”

150 Art show applications received so far. Off a bit from last year? “I think it’s about the same,” says art show coordinator Linda Bell. She’s confident that the show here will remain strong, even though art shows nationwide are seeing declining attendance and artist participation. Indeed, crowds here dropped nearly 10 percent last year to 13,998, despite favorable weather. But divining meaningful trends in the numbers is sometimes tricky. In 1999, Mt. Gretna Art Show attendance was 15,777, yet the following year it soared to 19,854, a record.
Linda says that art show promoters across the country believe “younger people are not attending art shows and that older people, even though they come, just aren’t spending as much on art as they once did.” To be sure, many people feel they already have enough art in their homes. And television, iPods and other entertainment choices now compete for people’s time and money. But, says Linda, “I’m sure the Mt. Gretna show will weather any downtrend.” She’s probably right. Harrisburg Magazine readers have voted ours the best art show in Central Pennsylvania.
Deadline for applications: April 1.

540 Eggs (45 dozen) that’ll be hidden April 8 in Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church’s annual Easter egg hunt. Of that total, 30 dozen will be the hard-boiled kind. The rest will be plastic, filled with candy.
How long does it take youngsters in five different age groups to find them all? “About five minutes,” says the commander of a special advance unit that precedes the Easter Bunny’s annual visit. “The hunt starts at 11 a.m.” she says, “so don’t be late!”

1,935 Gallons of (mostly) diesel fuel it took to run the Mt. Gretna fire company last year. At $2.50 a gallon, that's close to $5,000. (Yet another reason to dig a little deeper when those donation requests arrive and -- at $112.50 a tankful -- help fill the biggest fire engine’s 45-gallon tank.)

2,000 Calls a year that South Londonderry Township’s police department receives, says Chief Stephen Hitz, who’s just retired after 30 years of service. Replacing him as chief: Jeff Arnold, formerly a sergeant on the six-man force.


[] Where can I get maps of the trails in and around Mt. Gretna?

<> There's a small supply just outside the Governor Dick Nature Center (even when it's closed for the winter). Lebanon Valley's rail-trail will soon post a new map of the 15-mile trail at its website And the state game commission also posts maps on the web (although no specific trails are shown). The one for State Gamelands 145, closest to Mt. Gretna, appears at

[] How many people live in the different communities that make up the Mt. Gretna area? How many are seasonal, how many are permanent? Do you have any idea of how many houses make up the Campmeeting area as well as others? As a newcomer who’s been here only two years, I get confused over which area is which.

<> Confused? You’re not the only one. People who’ve lived here for years are sometimes surprised to find that, when they call the borough office for help, they don’t actually live in Mt. Gretna borough. Our numbers may be off a bit, but (take a deep breath) here’s the way it works for seven neighborhoods and three different municipalities making up what most people think of as “Mt. Gretna”:
Mt. Gretna, with 207 homes, is one of the smallest boroughs in America. Mt. Gretna overlays the boundaries of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua—that section of town which includes the playhouse, gift shop, post office, Jigger Shop and Le Sorelle cafe. School children there attend Cornwall-Lebanon Schools.
West Cornwall Township: Just west of the borough is the Campmeeting, with 242 cottages and homes, located between Pinch Road and Mt. Gretna Heights (which itself has about 70 homes). Tucked below the Heights (near the Hideaway) is Stoberdale, with 29 homes. Residents there are also in the Cornwall-Lebanon school district.
South Londonderry Township: Across Route 117 are three more communities with a total of about 170 homes: Timber Bridge is the newest. Timber Hills is the largest, stretching from the apartments at Soldiers’ Field westward just beyond the Timbers Dinner Theater. And Conewago Hill, a private lakeside community, sits on the site of the former Conewago Hotel. Youngsters living in South Londonderry attend schools in the Palmyra district.
Exactly how many people live here year-round? Nobody knows. But the fire department bases its planning on about 1,500 residents. It’s anybody’s guess, but most folks think the normal summertime total swells to roughly 2,500 (peaking on Saturdays or Sundays of art show weekend at about 10,000).
Overlaying it all are shared services—police coverage, for example, or municipal water supplies, cooperative snow-removal agreements, and friendly interchanges among multiple municipalities. Somehow it all works: Smaller seems better; we know by their first names the folks who scoop up our leaves and repair our streets. Also, people who talk-face-to-face seem to get things done; and our local tax payments are—for all that we get—just about the best money we spend.


Janice Balmer, a busy mom who often needs baby-sitters, offers to compile and share a listing of teens and others who could offer baby-sitting services. “It’d be great if we had a Mt. Gretna baby-sitters list,” she says.
Janice hopes there might be “some retired folks or local college kids who have day slots free,” or teens wanting to earn extra cash on nights or weekends.
“I know several moms with young kids who would love to use local people,” she says. “So if I get any responses, I’ll put together a list and share it.” E-mail her at or call 964-3142.


A reference to “Stoverdale” in last month’s newsletter sparked some lively discussions here in the editorial offices of the Mt. Gretna Gazette. One of our editors told us “Stoverdale” was dead wrong. Turns out he was dead right.

But we’re not the only ones confused. Google has dozens of references to “Stoverdale,” yet only two to “Stoberdale” (that small community of about 29 homes near the Hideaway restaurant and tavern).

The Hideaway, in fact, plays a central role in this tale. Jake Stober, an early owner, called it “The Stoberhouse.” He and two brothers, John and Willie, came to Mt. Gretna in the late 1920s or early ‘30s. John’s grandson Phil Stober, a Manhattanite who now loves to escape to his Campmeeting cottage with wife Barbara on weekends, is a good-natured fellow who also enjoys pointing out to friends the spot on a map bearing his family name. So naturally, he (and others) dropped us a note—the gist of which was that we probably ought to pay more attention to our volunteer editors.

Why do references to “Stoverdale”abound with so few for “Stoberdale?” We think we have an answer. The confusion began a century ago. Mt. Gretna’s early Campmeeting worshippers came from a different camp meeting ground called Stoverdale, near Hummelstown, just west of Hershey. That’s what Campmeeting historian Tom Meredith tells us. And indeed, Harrisburg Patriot archives confirm that around 1900, United Brethren worshippers at Stoverdale grew tired of the camp store, which “persisted in selling newspapers and cigars on Sundays.” So they decided to move elsewhere, finding the Mt. Gretna Campmeeting a perfect spot to begin “their days with sunrise services and continue with songfests, sermons and worship in the open-air tabernacle.”

So with Stoverdale worshippers transferring to campgrounds in Mt. Gretna—next to what later became Stoberdale—there’s abundant reason, we suppose, for at least a century’s worth of confusion. Still, when our unpaid but much-appreciated editors suggest we ought to triple-check a fact from now on, we’re gonna listen.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. Our thanks to dozens of folks who help compile the news, answer our questions, and keep us posted on all that’s going on. Thanks also to the folks at Gretna Computing, who regularly post copies of this bulletin on the Web at, and to those who print copies for perhaps 35 percent of our readers--friends and neighbors who lack links to the Internet.