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"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
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No. 64 October 13, 2006


Summers end abruptly in Mt. Gretna. Crowds disappear, streets grow silent, tempos slacken, and autumn slides into place. A canopy of color begins surging through the trees, forerunner to the grand season finale as clocks turn back on October’s final Sunday. Those who remain in this community of 1,500 or so permanent residents pause, draw deep breaths and savor scenes unknown to those who come only during the 13 weeks between the end of May and the start of September.

This is the time when, for year-rounders, the best of small town life appears. A time when energies burst forth in celebrations like the Halloween parade, an event that nobody—and we mean nobody—likes better than 12-year-old Nicole Roberts, the inspired force behind Mt. Gretna’s famed Halloween Band.

Known to Playhouse audiences for her roles in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Miracle Worker,” Nicole is hoping this year’s band will be the biggest ever, maybe even 20 musicians assembled on the float rolling down Rte. 117 on Oct. 27. Leaving from the Jigger Shop around 7 p.m., they’ll accompany costumed marchers young and old—adults in their 50s sometimes dressed up like chickens, Thatcher Bornman appearing as SuperPumpkin—with everybody parading toward the firehouse where the grand procession will finally reach its end.

If the band does indeed grow to 20 in number, it’d further tip the imbalance of spectators to participants. This is a parade, after all, where marchers outnumber watchers by a ratio of at least 10-to-one. But, in Mt. Gretna, nobody seems to notice. . . or even care.

Lest anyone mistake Mt. Gretna for just another sleepy little hamlet, however, take note: a Wi-Fi world extending over much of the community may soon be in our future. Bob Dowd and Joe Shay, Mt. Gretna Computer Consulting’s technical wizards, are now rigging up a network that will link wireless-enabled computers to the Internet.
The new service, priced to compete with commercial high-speed cable or DSL systems, should be up and running by Christmas. Early tests show the coverage area will extend as far as the Playhouse and up the hill into Campmeeting cottages as well. They’ll be distributing leaflets and posting details on their website,

And lest anyone suggest that Mt. Gretna isn’t a full-spectrum arts community, also take note that dance—until now the only performing art missing in our lineup—will soon be a permanent part of the arts environment. Danstation School of Dance, established three years ago in Lebanon by instructor Becky Smith, is moving to the La Cigale Design center on Rte. 117, bringing some 50 students who regularly take lessons Mondays through Thursdays. Becky also expects to begin offering courses for adults—aerobics, line dancing, even (gulp) belly dancing. Details:, or telephone (717) 507-4356.

Amid other stirrings in Mt. Gretna’s fall panoply is the annual soup cook-off, coming Nov. 11 from Noon to 2 p.m. Maybe it’s Scott Galbraith’s music. Or those delicious aromas wafting out of the fire hall. Or perhaps word passed by those who’ve sampled the soups before. In any case, this annual event is now a favorite on Mt. Gretna’s social calendar. Like to “challenge your palate and cast a ballot?” The cost is $10, with all proceeds going to our firefighters. Last year, the cook-off attracted 80 soup tasters, netting $800 for firefighters, more than twice as much as the year before.
And if you can’t wait until next month, you’ll find Alice McKeone’s famous ham and bean soup among the attractions at the fire company block shoot, tomorrow, Noon to 5 p.m.

Parades, treetop pageantry, soups and belly dancing, too. So, Mt. Gretna goes to sleep after Labor Day? Sssshhhhhh. . . it’s a secret.


Deer hunters will be out along both sides of Pinch Road again this year. Officials at Governor Dick Park have approved a limited four-day hunt for 60 hunters, coinciding with the Nov. 29 start of deer season. In 2005, 100 hunters claimed 55 deer (42 on the first day) in a special hunt—the first allowed in several decades on the 1,100-acre site.
It’s part of a plan to allow the “severely degraded” forest to recover from years of overgrazing. State forestry experts predict several more annual hunts may be needed before the land recovers. One recent study found that even after last year’s hunt, which reduced the population by 40 percent, deer had devoured 300 tree seedlings planted 100 ft. apart. A Department of Natural Resources official notes that, left unchecked, deer populations can double every two or three years.
Meanwhile, the game commission advises motorists to be wary of deer along the roadways, especially after sundown and before sunrise from now through mid-December. “Deer do unpredictable things, sometimes stopping in the middle of a road, cross and quickly re-cross to where they came from, or move toward approaching vehicles,” says a spokesman.
Police warn that during rutting season, deer-auto collisions on roads leading to Mt. Gretna often occur three times a week. An insurance industry study finds that vehicle damages average around $1,700.


[] If motorcycle traffic on Rte. 117 seems a bit heavier than usual this Sunday, there’s a reason. It’s the Lawn Fire Company’s final “great roads/good food” motorcycle breakfast of the year. From May to October, Lawn firefighters invite cyclists to a breakfast offering everything from sausage gravy and biscuits to pancakes, eggs and coffee for $8 on the third Sunday of the month. This marks their third year of sponsoring the Sunday breakfasts.

[] State highway officials have earmarked nearly $1.8 million for next summer’s resurfacing project on Rte. 117 from Colebrook to the Rte. 72/322 exit, originally set to begin in “late spring” but recently moved back to Aug. 1. Scheduling talks are now underway to minimize disruptions during Mt. Gretna’s busiest time of the year, especially the Aug. 18-19 art show. The 5.2 mile roadway will remain open during construction, narrowing to a single lane in spots where crews are at work. Also being discussed: permanent flashing lights to lower speeds through Mt. Gretna and embedded reflectors to aid motorists returning from plays and concerts.

[] It’s probably a good idea to start including your post office box number whenever you give anyone your Mt. Gretna mailing address. Although they’re not here yet, automated sorting systems may someday use box numbers to help speed mail processing locally.

[] History buffs curious about the Mt. Gretna prison that never got built—but one that planners intended to make “gloomier than Alcatraz”—will find a 70 year-old TIME article on the subject in the magazine’s archives at,9171,883635,00.html.

[] Street lights that could be a model for future lighting in Mt. Gretna’s Chautauqua district are planned as part of the Muhlenberg Avenue resurfacing project, now underway. Crews will lay conduit for new lights that, if approved, could appear sometime next spring.

[] Few climbers ever reach the 14,410 ft. peak of Mt. Rainier, highest point in the state of Washington, and fewer still of couch potatoes among us even try. But Mt. Gretnans Becky Davis, Tom Poremba and Fred Schaeffer did this summer, returning with tales to stir envy, photos galore, and enduring memories.

[] Jared Henry has been named chief of the Mt. Gretna fire company, succeeding Ben Sutcliffe, a 10-year veteran who has moved outside the fire company's response area. Jared, a former deputy chief, brings "enthusiasm and a big commitment to training" says president Keith Volker.

[] Missing cell phone: Andrea Faber, (717) 230-9398, will appreciate help in recovering a Samsung flip phone (in black leather covering) that she lost here during the art show.


[] Leaf pickups begin in the Chautauqua Nov. 6 and again on Nov. 20. Borough crews will be around to pick up brush on December 4 and 18. In the Heights and Stoberdale, West Cornwall’s leaf pickups (leaves only, no brush) begin Oct. 16 and continue to the end of November. Campmeeting residents may set their leaves out at anytime. Leaf collection service is unavailable for the South Londonderry Twp. area of Mt. Gretna (Timber Bridge, Timber Hills, and Conewago Hill).

[] Trick or Treat night in Mt. Gretna is officially set for Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. Just how many trick or treaters you can expect? Sometimes as many as 30, Campmeeting residents report. Others say nobody’s knocked at their door in years, but since there’s always the possibility, it’s a good idea to have treats just in case.

[] See artists working in their native habitats. Seven Mt. Gretna artists will open their creative sanctums on this year’s (8th annual) driving tour of art studios located throughout Central Pennsylvania Nov. 11-12. They include Shelby Applegate, Barbara Fishman, Madelaine Gray, Mary Kopala, Les Miller, Elizabeth Stutzman, and Fred Swarr. See

[] Those decorative green and burgundy Mt. Gretna crocks proved so popular that fire company fundraisers ordered a fresh supply for Christmas gift-giving. They’re on sale now ($55) at Remember When Gift Shop, Gretna Computers and the firehouse.

[] A buffet dinner precedes Gretna Music’s Oct. 28 Boston Brass concert at Elizabethtown College’s Leffler Center. Dinner reservations needed by Oct. 23 (717) 361-1508. Details:

[] Peggy O'Neil presents "The Thanks in Thanksgiving" at the Winterites’ Nov. 7 meeting, 1 p.m. in the fire hall. Now in its 57th year, the group invites women and men in the Mt. Gretna area to join them for dessert, beverages and programs on first Tuesdays every month (except January), October through April. Details: Donna Kaplan (964-2174) or Mary Ellen McCarty (964-3498).

[] Mt. Gretna borough officials voted to give $2,000 of art show receipts to Lebanon County’s land preservation initiative. Besides the borough and the Mt. Gretna and Lawn fire companies, art show funds are also going to the Campmeeting Association ($3,000), Mt. Gretna Heights ($3,000), the Playhouse ($2,000), Tabernacle ($1,000) and Chautauqua’s summer arts program ($3,000). Over past years, art show funds have also been earmarked for such community-wide projects as the turkey vulture relocation effort, a lakeside fire hydrant, and an emergency generator to assure water supplies during lasting power outages.


. . . for Joan Oberly, who died last month at age 69, should go to the Mt. Gretna Historical Society, P.O. Box 362, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Joan, who lived in Reading but visited here often, treasured memories of growing up in Mt. Gretna, working at the Chautauqua Inn and enjoying summers here following a career that included teaching mathematics and serving 21 years as a senior staff member at GPU.

. . . for Nancy Bishop, who died recently at the age of 71, are being accepted by Harrisburg Humane Society, 7790 Grayson Rd., Harrisburg, PA 17111. A former art teacher who once studied under Norman Rockwell and became a stamp designer while living in Montserrat, British West Indies, Nancy is remembered locally for her enthusiastic support of Gretna Theater fundraising campaigns.


Will Durant, the historian, once wrote, “it finally came to me that reform should begin at home, and since that day I have not had time to remake the world.” The advice seems sound, especially in a town that runs on volunteers. Many of us, now retired, have abundant opportunities to shape the world that lies immediately at our fingertips.
That notion came to us late one afternoon as we noticed a couple of borough employees, following their regular workday, out pulling weeds around the post office, doing work formerly done by a garden club which has now dwindled to perhaps only two or three resolute volunteers.
It was also the day a news story noted that complete retirement “leads to an 11 percent decline in mental health, an eight percent increase in illness, and a 23 percent increase in difficulty performing daily activities.” Of course, researchers said, there’s a quick fix for this: Keep working. “The declines in health are much lower and, in some cases, nonexistent for those that continue to work part time.”
Mulling all this over, we wondered not simply where our volunteers have gone, for Mt. Gretna still has volunteers aplenty. Rather, we wondered whether the voluntary efforts that most of us make ever come close to radiating the warmth and caring of a well-tended garden intended for others.

Kindest regards,

Roger Groce

P.S. Our thanks to readers who send notes that spark ideas for future Newsletter topics, gently nudge us when we err, and pass along news that others are unlikely to find elsewhere. Thanks, too, to those who share this bulletin with friends and neighbors around the world, reinforcing the notion that, at its best, e-mail offers a means for staying in touch with shared experiences, sometimes approaching the pleasure of postcards in an earlier age. And thanks to our friends at Gretna Computer Consulting, you’ll find previous copies of this Newsletter at You’ll also find photographer Dale Grundon’s colorful scenes of recent Mt. Gretna events at