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No question about what tops the news this month in Mt. Gretna. It’s that scenic byway proposed for Rte 117.

And it’s a topic that everyone’s invited to explore at a meeting this Wednesday night (July 12) at 7 at the Governor Dick Nature Center located along Pinch Road.

County and state planners will be there to outline ideas for rebuilding the highway, from Colebrook to Rte. 72. They’ll also review just what a scenic byway is, talk about what it might mean for the area, and seek ideas on "how to proceed.”

County planner Tom Kotay says, “We’re looking for a good turnout so as many folks as possible can help us decide if we should do a corridor management plan along Rte. 117 or back away from this idea.” He says that if area residents aren’t interested in having a scenic byway here, other communities are—“especially the Rte. 419 corridor. So if we don’t do this on Rte. 117, we’ll move elsewhere.”

One thing’s for sure: Whether or not a scenic byway is in our future, PennDOT does intend to rebuild the 5.2-mile stretch of Rte. 117 that passes through the middle of town, linking Rte. 72 to Colebrook. State highway officials have approved a construction plan that calls for preliminary work to begin this fiscal year, which started July 1. Core borings, one of the first steps, will determine whether geological shifts in the nearly 100-year-old concrete highway laid down during Mt. Gretna’s encampment days might be hastening breakups in the asphalt surface. The concrete highway was part of the 28th Division Highway system, one of Pennsylvania’s first paved roads.

Another sure bet: Scenic byway or not, the road will almost certainly be widened, creating paths for cyclists, joggers and horseback riders. And, rest assured, those in charge of planning say that preserving trees along the route will be a priority.

Among other big topics this month is the progress toward pizzas at the site of the former Mt. Gretna Deli, otherwise known to generations as “the store.” When awards are handed out for patience and persistence, Damien Acqunio will surely win top honors. He and his family have wrestled with regulatory hurdles for more than two years. And in recent weeks, crews have been working long into the evenings and on weekends, rushing to capture the crest of the summer season. Everyone in town, it seems, admires their tenacity and wishes them well.

And as crowds gradually rediscover Mt. Gretna's summer magic, attendance is increasing at the Playhouse, where “Cole” attracted some of the most favorable comments we’ve heard in recent years. Next comes the mystery-comedy based on the 19th century novel Dracula.

“Count Dracula and Elisabeth Von Trapp in the same week. Nowhere else on the planet would that happen,” says This Week in Mt. Gretna publisher Kathy Snavely, who offers an e-mail version of the weekly bulletin at The Von Trapp concert at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Campmeeting Tabernacle could be a sell-out (although tickets were still available as of yesterday at the gift shop.) In two previous appearances here, over 750 people flocked to hear her.

And the other big news this month is likely to be the nod to proceed with a Mt. Gretna museum. Chautauqua residents this month will have to approve a change in the rules to allow conversion of a cottage into a museum. Most think that’s altogether likely—giving the area a much-needed repository for historical treasures that previous generations have collected and that future generations will share.

All this, of course, is just a prelude to the big events coming in August. First, the tour of homes and cottages—now one of the most popular house tours in Central Pennsylvania. The date is always the first Saturday in August, and this year’s homes are already pictured online at Also the Cicada Festival, starting Aug. 8, and then the grandest event of them all, the 32nd annual Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show Aug. 19-20. It’s one that Harrisburg Magazine readers voted “the best art show in Central Pennsylvania.” Funds from the two-day show have over the years helped fund community projects ranging from fire hydrants at the lake to vulture relocation programs throughout Mt. Gretna’s seven neighborhoods—plus fire engines, street paving projects and ambulance services for all.

The Mt. Gretna spirit. In mid-July, alive and well. . . everywhere you look.


It had all the signs of an invasion: Gypsy moths swarming into town a few weeks ago, spreading alarm among homeowners. Then, suddenly, the assault seemed to collapse.

That may have been because the State previously released a parasite that is the gypsy moth’s mortal enemy.

Did the strategy work? Perhaps so.

Former biology teacher Chuck Allwein says that earlier this summer he was “quite concerned” about gypsy moths because of the number of droppings suddenly showing up around town. But as the summer progresses, that number seems to have “collapsed” before the caterpillars reached maturity, he says.

Chuck, who also serves as borough council president, has noticed “a number of dead immature caterpillars” and has been struck by the absence of male moths, which are brown and fly erratically (unlike female moths, which are white and do not fly.) In past years of infestation, the air was full of male moths,” he says.

Officials won’t know whether spraying will be necessary next spring until they do an egg mass count, probably in September. It the count reaches a certain level, county or state agencies will be called in to spray. If the count falls below that minimum, local municipalities will have to decide whether they want to undertake spraying programs on their own, apportioning costs and skipping over communities that don’t wish to join in. When the egg mass statistics are in, “we’ll know exactly where we stand,” Chuck says.


Nobody talks about it much, but Dr. Howard Applegate did last week. His tale of what it’s like to succumb to Lyme disease—and the long, painful road to recovery—is enough to make us all stop, look and take extra precautions. Apart from its dangers and discomfort is the penalty of persistent aftereffects. More than a year later, the disease leaves victims feeling weak, operating at only a fraction of their usual energy. See Lebanon Daily News article, “Lyme Rise Troubles Victims, Doctors.” (Or drop us a note. We’ll forward a copy.)


Barb Yashinsky, who has designed every Mt. Gretna art show poster since 1998, collaborated with Lebanon designer Kevin Cramer to recreate the antique postcard design on this year’s art show poster. “It’s drawing a lot of favorable comments,” says show director Linda Bell. Out-of-town readers can see this year’s poster at and buy copies by e-mailing, or stopping in at the Borough office, tel. (717) 964-3270.


Where’s the fire? Find out what’s happening when the alarm goes off. A detailed summary immediately appears online at House fires, brushfires, entrapped motorists, gasoline spills, trees down over power lines, smoke alarms, hazardous liquid spills . . . it’s all there. And it's all in a day’s work for our volunteers—people who give a lot but ask for little in return.

The key to look for in this countywide summary of current emergencies: Our guys and gals are Station 38. When you see all that they do, kindly keep all that they do in mind—especially when it’s time to write a check, attend a pig roast, or support a fire company breakfast. For most of us—living in a community with wooden cottages surrounded by trees—it’s unquestionably the best investment we make all year.


[] Recent articles about Mt. Gretna include the Patriot-News’ 1,300-word piece, “Gretna’s Cultural Landscape: Resort Town Offers a Daily Extravaganza of Arts” (July 9) , DelawareOnline’s summer events summary:, and the Dale Grundon profile in “Susquehanna Style” magazine (see the link to

[] Historian Tom Meredith will trace the origins of Mt. Gretna’ Campmeeting and Chautauqua communities in a presentation this month. “The two groups had similar origins, faced many of the same problems, but their solutions sometimes were different,” says Tom. His program, “Two for the Woods,” begins at 7 p.m.July 22 in the Tabernacle.

[] Lancaster’s Bright Side Baptist Church Gospel Choir appears at the Tabernacle June 16 in a service beginning at 7:30 p.m. led by Pastor Louis Bucher. The “Summer at the Tabernacle” series continues July 23—“in the best tradition of the early Mt. Gretna camp meetings”—with Lititz Church of the Brethren minister Bob Kettering. Details:

[] Pictures of the 16th Infantry monument ceremony July 1, Mt. Gretna’s bike rodeo, Heritage Festival and “Dream Machine” car show appear on the Web at That’s the new site for the former “Dale’s Delights.” The name has changed, but the photographer hasn’t. at a website designed and managed by Grundonmobile chief and man-about-town Dale Grundon.

[] Volunteers needed to serve in two-hour shifts during the 22nd annual tour of homes Saturday, Aug. 5. Call Suzanne Stewart, 361-1510, or e-mail

WHERE THEY ARE NOW. . .David Fuller, who played in Romantic Comedy and Trust Me at the Playhouse 16 years ago, has since appeared in New York City Opera Company’s production of A Little Night Music, in London performances of Orpheus and the Underworld, and on daytime television shows including “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.” A Dartmouth graduate, he now lives with his wife (and partner) Judith Jarosz in Brooklyn Heights.


Here’s what’s on tap for the Mt. Gretna House Tour Saturday, Aug. 5, now previewed with pictures and detailed descriptions at

Visitors will find answers to questions like these: Can a couple spend entire weekends with three teenage sons in a cottage without TV? Or a computer specialist survive in a woodland retreat without even a phone? Or a sales manager live in the same place for eight years—yet feel when returning home each night as if she’s “going on vacation”?

The self-guided tour—from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.—includes cottages where walls don’t quite extend all the way up to the ceilings, where residents dine on their porches by candlelight while watching winter snowfalls, and where an owner once took down a wall and put it back up again to squeeze in a favorite chair and convince his fiancée that she “really ought to marry this guy.”

Ticket details for the Mt. Gretna tour, ($12 in advance, $15 on the day of the tour) are now online. Or call Music at Gretna, (717) 361-1508, which benefits from tour proceeds.

Advance tickets are also available through the tour sponsor, Brownstone Real Estate Co., as well as at the following locations:
Lancaster County: Stauffers of Kissel Hill, Lititz; Lynden Gallery, Elizabethtown; Yale Electric Supply and Reifsnyders, Lancaster; and Summy House Restaurant, Manheim.
Dauphin County: Yale Electric Supply in Harrisburg; and Brownstone Real Estate, Hershey.
Cumberland County: Pure Gallery, Camp Hill; and Reifsnyders, Mechanicsburg.
Lebanon County: Leitzel’s Jewelry, Myerstown; Yale Electric Supply and Brownstone Real Estate, Lebanon; Allen Theater, Annville; and Remember When Gift Shop, Mt. Gretna.
Berks County: Progress Electric Supply, Wyomissing.


8 Guys called to remove one three-inch tree? It happened last month, another saga in the annals of PennDOT. First to appear were three shiny new PennDOT trucks. All converged on a single tree, maybe three inches in diameter, that fell near the newspaper racks along Route 117.

Seven men got out to handle the crisis. One had a broom. Another had a shovel. Five, apparently, had time on their hands. With the practiced eye of seasoned veterans, they watched the cleanup operations. Across the street, Mt. Gretna citizens—taxpayers all—also watched. . . spellbound.

But the drama grew even more intense. While bystanders (and idle crewmen) watched, a fourth shiny new truck pulled up.

Why? Nobody could tell, exactly. Except that now eight PennDOT workers were on the job, six watching while one swept and another shoveled.

Nobody reported exactly how long it took to dispose of the spindly tree, with its slingshot-caliber branches. But at a neighborhood tavern that night, the telling and retelling took hours, delightful hours.

29 Attendees at last Friday’s art class in the Heights Community Building. The 10 a.m. to noon sessions every Friday, now through Aug. 11, are open to area residents. Instructor Ellen Nicholas invites all ages. Indeed, kids, teens, parents, grandparents and singles all showed up last week. “After five years, it’s a going thing,” says Heights secretary Susan Wood.

106 Active eagle nests in Pennsylvania, up from 99 last year. Has anyone spotted an eagle since Mike Bell caught a glimpse of one at Lake Conewago last March? Carol Groce says one swept overhead as she was driving along Butler Road, toward Lebanon two weeks ago. But other sightings have been rare.

300 Miles on a bicycle? In three days? Yes, that was the goal of four Mt. Gretna cyclists this month. Linda Bell, Robin Smith, Barbara Ricci and Kay Care signed up for the Baltimore Bicycle Club’s 10th annual Tour de Montes. “Montes?” That means mountains – real mountains, in Maryland’s ski country.

It’s the first time the four had ever attempted three “century” (100-mile) rides back-to-back. One leg of the three-day journey required daunting uphill climbs, some two miles long, another that stretched upward for four grinding miles, pushing endurance to its limits. “I had to talk to myself,” says Linda: “Keep pedaling, don’t stop, you’re gonna make it.”

When they were done, everyone felt a sense of triumph, says Linda. “We were elated. It was like having ridden in the Tour de France.”


[] Those traffic cones along Rte. 117 between the post office and the Jigger Shop are really effective in slowing down traffic. Why not extend those cones all the way to Boulevard street (leading to the Hide-A-Way)?

<> Police Chief Bruce Harris responds: “The cones would likely be helpful but they cannot be a permanent fixture.

“They could be put out in the evening and weekends when there is a lot of pedestrian and vehicle traffic in town but could not be in place the entire summer. If someone (or a group of people) would be willing to assume the responsibility of placing and removing the cones on a daily basis, the idea has merit.”

There you have it, folks. Another good idea. . in search of volunteers to implement it.

[] While attending a concert at the Tabernacle, I glanced up at the ceiling and noted what a brochure calls John Cilley's “unique system of tension trusses that radiate from a center ring to balance the roof, supported by 23 chestnut posts.” Mr. Cilley, a Lebanon builder, also designed the Playhouse and a similar outdoor auditorium near Bethlehem, which both collapsed under the weight of heavy snows in 1994. Since all three amphitheaters were built around the turn of the century, why didn't the Tabernacle fall too?

<> He's far too modest to say so himself, but Campmeeting Supervisor Merv Lentz will likely go down in Mt. Gretna history as “the man who saved the Tabernacle.” The winter of 1994 brought 89 inches of snow, much of it piling up in a single February blizzard. Snows three-feet deep collected everywhere, including the conical roofs of the Playhouse and Tabernacle. As the winter storm continued, both buildings began to creak and groan. Fears grew that they might collapse.

When the blizzard finally stopped, Merv—acting on his own—called in some carpenters. Beneath the sagging rafters, they placed 20-ft. jacks, the type often used in basements.

Then the real work started. Four men began the strenuous, risky and painstaking work of shoveling snow from the roof. It was a complex procedure. To preserve equal weight distribution on the roof, they had to remove the snow evenly. That meant shoveling from the top down, in a spiral pattern. That also meant the same snow had to be re-shoveled several times before they could finally dump it off the roof. Occasionally slipping on the ice-covered surface, workers spent the entire day shoveling on Wednesday—their shins growing sore from standing at a steep angle. Gradually, “as the snow came off, the rafters flexed back up, and the jacks fell down,” Merv recalls. But by nightfall, they still hadn't removed all the snow. The next day, Thursday, they came back to finish the job.

At the Playhouse, meanwhile, crews working from cranes were also trying to reduce the snow buildup. But by Friday, they had to abandon their rescue efforts because of yet another snowstorm and the imminent danger of collapse.

After the Playhouse fell the next day, shortly after 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, Merv took extra precautions at the Tabernacle. He added braces to the roof, strengthening places where it had cracked under the tons of snow. Today, annual inspections are routine, he says. “I told the Board, anytime we get eight inches of snow, we're going to do the same thing. We don't want to take any chances.”

So is Merv Lentz “the Man Who Saved the Tabernacle?”

“Some people might say that,” says Merv, eager to change the subject. His focus—then as now—was simply doing what needs to be done. “The important thing,” he says, “is the Tabernacle is still there. I'm just glad we were able to save it.”

[] Where do the coins go that children leave in the fairy garden along Pennsylvania Avenue?

<> The answer, of course, is that since fairies don’t spend money, Joe and Reenie Macsisak’s 14-year-old granddaughter Chelsea comes by every week or so and collects the tangible evidence of all those heartfelt hopes, dreams and wishes. When there’s enough to make a difference, she gives them to charities that she chooses—charities such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association or Salvation Army—because they benefit children. So far this year, she’s collected almost $14.

Says her grandmother, “that’s a lot of pennies and nickels.”


Even though many years had passed, Princeton Avenue resident Bob Wilson immediately recognized the fellow strolling down the street where he lives. “Hi, Don,” Bob called out.

Don responded warmly, and for the next 20 minutes, they carried on an animated conversation. Later, others in Don’s party—visitors who had accompanied him on the trip to Mt. Gretna—joined in, including one woman Bob estimated to be in her mid-70s. Turns out, they were visiting from Colorado.

A few minutes later, the older woman asked, “Don, do you know who this man is?” Don, a bit embarrassed, admitted that had no idea. Bob then introduced himself to his old friend.

Don was mystified. He’d never laid eyes on Bob Wilson. But his name was Don. And he sure looked like Bob thought his old friend Don ought to look like by now. Everyone laughed, and the "new friends" continued their amiable chat.

Then Bob turned to the older woman and asked how someone from Colorado happened to be strolling through the streets of Mt. Gretna. Her maiden name was Herr, she said, and she’d once lived in Lancaster. Before that, she'd taught school in Pennsbury Township, Pa.

A sudden awareness hit Bob with the force of a revelation.

Here, standing right at his doorstep, was Miss Herr, Bob’s eighth-grade social studies teacher. “I’ve been looking for you for 39 years,” Bob said, still reeling from the sudden discovery.

“What on earth for,” she asked.

“Because Ray Holly, the worst kid in the class, and I were best friends. We gave you such a hard time—and you were so kind, so empathetic and so patient with us. Yet, when you didn't return the next year, I feared that we had ruined your career.”

“Oh, no," she said. "I left to get a degree in special education, met my future husband, and wound up in Colorado. That’s where I’ve been since.”

“I’d like to say she remembered me," says Bob. “But she only remembered Ray.”

Dr. Seuss probably would end this tale of 39 years and 1,500 miles by saying something like, “And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.” No, it was Princeton Avenue. And it happened just a few weeks ago. Oh, the places we’ll go? Yes, but, in truth, we're never very far from where we started.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

With reporting assistance from Bruce “McMoose” Baxter, 14

P.S. Our thanks to the many readers who kindly respond to our sometimes arcane questions, provide thoughtful answers, and share a dedication to a community we all love. Thanks also to those who thoughtfully pass along copies of this bulletin to friends and family scattered over the globe and especially to those who print copies for friends lacking links to the Internet. As well, our continuing appreciation for the team at Gretna Computers, who we contracted to design and build for us a remarkable custom computer with twin 400 gigabyte hard drives (enough power, we’d guess, to run a medium-sized Fortune 500 company) that constantly back one another up and a unique triple-screen monitor that speeds the process of writing and editing. They also maintain the website,, where you’ll find back issues of this newsletter