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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 65 November 6, 2006

A hard frost, four nights in a row last month, put an end to Mary Hernley's flower sales this season. But she'll be back next year -- her 42d as Mt. Gretna's "flower lady." So how were sales this year? "Good, though not quite as good as last year," she says. "But then last year was up from the year before, so it goes up and down," says Mary, a better barometer of shifting trends than the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index.
"I've noticed a change of preference in colors. And we sell fewer gladiolas than we did 15 or 20 years ago," says Mary, whose familiar spot along Rte. 117 is a beacon for flower lovers and a boon for faraway missionaries receiving donations spawned by her summertime sales. Recent trends she's observed: "Some folks are in a hurry and want 'ready-to-go' bunches. Others enjoy taking their time and picking out their own flowers."
Of course, being "in a hurry" seems antithetical to Mt. Gretna life, even in summer, when the pulse quickens to a rocking chair pace.
Yet that's not to imply, after summer's over, that nothing gets done around here. Vital energies start flowing at this time of year. Take, for instance, that Wi-Fi project now underway at Gretna Computers. Setting up a communitywide wireless Internet network won't be easy, but Bob Dowd and Joe Shay are determined to make Mt. Gretna the first "Wi-Fi" hotspot in Lebanon County, probably sometime next year.
Also perking, as leaves fall and days shorten their stride in the march toward winter, are a series of "walk-throughs" by state, county and local officials mulling plans for that big Rte. 117 resurfacing project next year. No, it's not a Scenic Byway any longer, and plans call for it to get started after Labor Day rather than during the height of Mt. Gretna 's busy summer. They'll improve (but not widen) existing shoulders and do whatever it takes to preserve the trees -- except for a few, perhaps, near the playground. PennDOT project manager LaConie Jackson also promises they'll add raised pavement markers—reflectors that will illuminate the roadway for motorists returning from plays and concerts on dark, stormy and foggy nights. And they plan to add crosswalks at Pinch Road and maybe flashing lights at either end of town, cautioning motorists to slow down for pedestrians during the summer.
But summer's still a long way off, and other news is stirring. . .
Hunters are out roaming the countryside, in surrounding state gamelands especially, sometimes startling hikers and joggers. So a word to the wise is "stay out of the woods," especially if you're not wearing those fluorescent orange colors prescribed by state law from mid-November to mid-December. Note, too, that 60 hunters will again be in the Governor Dick woods Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in a special hunt—limited to bows, shotguns and flintlock muzzle-loaders—to thin out the deer herd.
There's no thinning of the buzzard herd, however. They're back this year, and Max Hunsicker's team is looking for extra volunteers to help chase them to roosts far removed from Mt. Gretna's rooftops and rhododendrons. Ours isn't the only town attracting turkey vultures, however. They swarm all over the country. In Atlantic City, N.J., one exasperated minister—with plans for an elderly housing project thwarted by the stubbornly roosting birds—lamented, "I'm sure they look good to other turkey vultures, but they've got to be one of the ugliest birds God ever made." Amen, brother.
Lots of other events shaping up as we glide toward winter, a time of year when nearly half of us disappear, like gladiolas, at the first sign of frost.
Yet for those who remain, pleasures abound—mainly, the pleasures of seeing familiar faces every day at the post office, walking along an uncrowded lake and savoring the serenity, then getting busy again--laying plans for another season that others will enjoy. Why do we do it? Largely because that's how Mt. Gretnans reap their richest harvest—doing things for others, things that also warm our own hearts. Just like the folks who stop to linger at Mary Hernley's stand and enjoy taking the time to pick out their own flowers.
[] Mt. Gretna chefs swept top honors at last week's fire company Soup Cook-off fundraiser. The Campmeeting's Geri Benseman, offering Roasted Red Pepper and Crab Bisque, was the top vote-getter (see her recipe at Wendy Scarborough's pumpkin soup claimed "best presentation" honors as well as second place in the contest. Conewago Hill resident Linda Pappariella scored an impressive third place with a creamy crab soup devoured by the first 50 or so people stopping by her table. Voters awarded "most unusual" honors to Mt. Gretna's Sandra Hall, who surrounded her Cream of Reuben soup with a basketful of the actual ingredients. Dale Grundon's photos of this increasingly popular event appear online at
[] Santa's coming to the firehouse Dec. 9. He'll be there for two hours starting at 11:30 a.m. – always a highlight for Mt. Gretna's youngsters, oldsters and everyone in between. And don't forget the annual lighting of the community Christmas tree, 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at Cedarn Point, the home of Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney (where Pinch and Princeton roads join Rte. 117). Caroling, hot mulled cider and fun for all
[] After Christmas is over, we'll have to find another spot to discard our trees. No tree dumping at the usual spot along Rte. 117 in Governor Dick Park. Park officials say too many folks left their lights, tinsel and other decorations on the trees, damaging chippers which ground them into pulp. Boro chief Bill Care says they'll collect trees for Chautauqua residents. Merv Lentz will do the same for folks in the Campmeeting. Neither South Londonderry nor West Cornwall townships have tree pickup programs. But West Cornwall's considering one. They just bought a chipper and will discuss the possibility at their December meeting.
[] Cornwall police chief Bruce Harris says we'll soon be seeing that 'speed indicator' trailer in town again. One of the most effective "slow down, buddy" devices ever invented (other than a patrol car, of course), it's officially called a "radar trailer." Previously, we've borrowed the trailer from PennDOT, one we had to share with dozens of other Central Pennsylvania communities. Thanks to a grant that Chief Harris has been pursuing for more than a year, local police will soon have one of their own. Most days, we can't think of a better place to put it than along what some motorists must surely consider the Mt. Gretna Freeway.
[] Mt. Gretna's buzzard busters, volunteers who since 2001 have built one of the most successful turkey vulture-relocation programs in Pennsylvania, are looking for added help. Coordinator Max Hunsicker ( says that "to succeed, we need coverage of the entire community," so the birds will not just fly from one Mt. Gretna area to another. He says the team "will not fire pyrotechnics after dark, since at that point they do nothing but annoy people." Strong lights, used about 15 minutes before dark, have proven effective, and in selected areas the USDA will hang effigies—a warning not lost on even the most stubborn vultures. A few early arrivals are already here, so this year's coordinated campaign is officially underway. The volunteers need others to help chase the birds away with lights or launchers, especially just before dark. "We've made tangible improvements throughout the community, says Max, "and I believe it's an indicator of our success that many residents no longer see the vultures as a problem. Six years ago, it was a different story."
[] Jessica Kosoff—a new mom who's on her way to becoming one of Mt. Gretna's most energetic volunteers—is also the new coordinator of the Information Center. She's looking for other volunteers to help answer questions for visitors this summer. "I'll probably start making a schedule in April or May and will be looking for people to sit for two hours, just as former coordinators Jeff and Deborah Hurst did," she says. "I'll see what response I get before setting up a schedule, probably something like 2 p.m. to 8 p.m." Contact Jessica:
12th National ranking of white-water kayaking racer Bob Horlacher, 62, a Campmeeting resident for the past 30 years. Son Craig, also of Mt. Gretna, is a slalom racer. Bob's Mt. Gretna ties extend to the 1900s, when his great-grandparents built a cottage here. His grandparents were still living there when Bob and wife Diane moved to their own cottage on First Street. Bob's a quality auditor for the American Institute of Timber Construction, producer of laminated timber used in large beams and arches. "It's a small industry, and my hobby is a small sport – only about 235 wildwater kayakers in the country," he says. Accomplishment of which he's most proud? "At 62, I'm still paddling." So is the coach, now 76, who introduced him to the sport in 1960. "The last time I competed against him," says Bob, "he beat me."
25 Of Bobby Darin's greatest hits could be among Gretna Production's offerings next season in a lineup that includes the Darin salute, "Mack The Knife," complete with a nine-piece orchestra. That's just one of several shows under review for next season. Others include an Irving Berlin revue, Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys" and maybe "Fiddler On the Roof." Theater manager Larry Frenock says Early Bird sales are off to a great start, and this year's gala receipts topped even last year's record-setting totals. That helps shore up a 2006 season that, amid torrential rains and heat waves, struggled to just about match the sluggish totals of 2005. But theater officials –now planning to hire a development director who can help put Gretna Productions on a stronger financial footing—are now more optimistic than ever.
All in all, a great season ahead, one that could include a return for one-man show appearances by former artistic director Will Stutts, whose career is now off in another direction. One of the plays that Larry hopes to add to next year's lineup is a script fresh from the author, a third installment of the popular "Smoke On the Mountain" series called "Homecoming."
30 Percent of Mt. Gretna mail that arrives on the same day of the week, Mondays. Second busiest day? Friday, when 18 percent of the week's mail arrives, says postmaster Steve Strickler. Lightest mail days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, each with only 10 percent of the week's mail volume. Tuesdays (when newsmagazines arrive) and Saturdays each account for about 16 percent, Steve estimates. Oh, the things you'd never know if you didn't read this Newsletter.
80 Percent of orders at the pizza shop that are now phoned in (964-1853) as takeouts or deliveries. Owner Damien Orea recently added bread and milk as a convenience for residents. Damien says that business so far has been "okay," but he's looking forward to a return of warmer weather and bigger crowds. Meanwhile, patrons are devouring his cheese steaks and pizzas, pepperoni especially. Veteran business owners here predict the shop will see a huge surge next spring, when business usually surges to over twice the levels of winter months.

82 Most votes in Mt. Gretna boro won by any candidate in the Nov. 7 election. State representative Mauree Gingrich led U.S. Congressman Tim Holden (who got 80 votes). Next came Gov. Ed Rendell (76) and U.S. senator-elect Bob Casey (74). In the state senate race, winning candidate Mike Folmer (56) nevertheless got fewer Mt. Gretna boro votes than opponent John Liss (64). Local voters split 59 (Yes) to 57 (No) on whether to provide a $20 million bonus to Persian Gulf war veterans, a measure approved by 61 percent of voters statewide.
91 Dollars (in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters) collected this summer at the fairy garden along Pennsylvania Avenue by Reenie and Joe Macsisak's 14-year-old granddaughter Chelsea. She gives the coins ($91.47, actually, symbolizing the hopes of hundreds of youngsters, adults and even seniors with dreams undiminished by passing years) to the Salvation Army and Muscular Dystrophy, charities that help children.
[] The imaginative impresario of Mt. Gretna 's organ concert series, Peter Hewitt, has another winner for the 2007 season. "Gems of Juilliard" will showcase four students from the famed Juilliard School : Isabelle Demers, James Wetzel, Michael Crawford and Daniel Sullivan. They'll appear in the popular Thursday evening series beginning July 5.
[] Does the name John Hagelin ring a bell? His mother lived in Mt. Gretna a few years ago, his uncle is Jack Bitner, and his name has twice appeared on the U. S. presidential ballot as the Natural Law Party candidate. A quantum physicist who graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth, earned a doctorate from Harvard and was a researcher at Stanford, he now heads a world peace movement based on transcendental meditation in association with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The movement has been credited with reducing stress in classrooms, lowering crime in big cities, even bringing an end to international conflicts. See
[] The electronic age has overtaken Mt. Gretna's art show. Artists applying for the juried competition now can no longer send photos of their work on 35mm slides. Everything will be processed digitally, through ZAPP, a universal online system. Show organizer Linda Bell says the technology is the standard for art shows, festivals and fairs throughout the country. For online applications, scenes from the 2006 art show, and last year's 30 "judges' choice" winners, see
[] Conewago Hill's Val Sarabia is one of six national contestants in The Wall Street Journal's latest Investment Dartboard contest. Val and five teammates will see how their favorite stocks do between now and March against the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and six stocks chosen at random by tossing darts. Usually, Val says, the darts win. His pick: Conoco Phillips.
[] As they've done for the past three years, Pack 419 cub scouts from Cornwall United Methodist Church are again out scouting for Lebanon County food bank donations. They dropped off bags at doors throughout the Campmeeting and other Mt. Gretna neighborhoods last week. They'll return Saturday (Nov. 18) to pick them up.
[] Looking for a gift they won't find anywhere else? The Mt. Gretna Historical Society has packaged Jack Bitner's history of the Chautauqua and the narrow gauge railroad in a two-DVD set: $29.95 (plus $4 S&H). Details: or phone Dick Smith, 964-3225.
[] Other gift ideas: the fire company's crocks, afghans and wall hangings—all among the most popular fundraiser items ever—are available at Gretna Computers (next to the pizza shop). Stop in or call 964-1106.
[] Mt. Gretna's Winterites have a full agenda this year. Their Dec. 5 gathering, a covered dish social at the fire hall, is just one event on a packed schedule that underscores why they've been thriving for the past 56 years. Also on tap: a celebration honoring founder Magi Stroh Feb. 6; a program with houseplant tips by master gardener Millie Dieffenbach March 6; and Pat Attwood's slides and memories of growing up in Mt. Gretna April 3. Programs begin at 1 p.m. in the fire hall. As usual, those savvy year-rounders will skip January, the one month they set aside for snow. Everyone's invited. Guys too. Call Mary Ellen McCarty, 964-3498.
[] Gift Certificates for next season's productions at the Playhouse are on sale now from Gretna Music (361-1508) and Gretna Theater (964-3627). Theater manager Larry Frenock says patrons can buy certificates for single tickets, subscriptions or in any amount patrons prefer. Gretna Music offers various ticket booklet combinations for its classical and summer jazz series (
[] New York actor Bob Hartman, who visits here whenever his schedule allows, sends a clipping from Equity News citing Mt. Gretna's Playhouse, originally built in 1892, as home to one of the nation's two oldest summer stock theater groups. The other is The Cape Playhouse, Dennis, Mass. Both started in 1927.
[] "Remember When" gift shop, now open only on weekends, closes for the season Nov. 26. But you still have time to buy Christmas gifts, including those popular Mt. Gretna prints by artist Eleanor Sarabia, fire company mugs, decorative crocks and other "only in Mt. Gretna" treasures. Details:, (717) 964-2231.
[] La Cigale, John and Nancy Mitchell's design center next to the miniature golf course along Rte. 117, now offers several gift items including ceramic cicadas from France. Their custom tablecloth selections include round tablecloths with center designs in acrylic-coated and plain cotton. Winter hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (plus what John calls "green Friday," the day after Thanksgiving). Other weekdays by appointment: 964-2248 or (cell phone) 813-1805. A revamped website includes colorful displays, online ordering and national and regional shows where you'll find their distinctive French Provencal linens. See
[] My brother recalls a silo-type tower somewhere beyond the Gov. Dick tower in the woods—an escape he retreated to many times in his long-ago childhood. Does anyone know if it is still up there and what its purpose was?
<> Stained glass artist Dale Grundon, who roams the countryside as much as anyone, thinks he may be remembering a six-story cottage and lookout tower that some called "Schock's Mansion" (see photos, Built by Clarence Schock, who donated 1,105 surrounding acres for a park in 1953, the wooden structure was located "down the hill and to the west of today's concrete tower, just off the stone-covered maintenance road." Frequently a target for vandals, it was torn down in the late 1960s. The 66-ft. concrete and steel tower which replaced it was built in 1954 and today provides commanding views of five counties.
The "mansion" and Governor Dick tower weren't the only structures located on the mountaintop, however. During the Korean War, the government built a radar site there, part of the Nike defense missile system. "It's doubtful whether the outpost ever served a useful purpose," says historian Jack Bitner. Maybe not, but among Mt. Gretna maidens in the 1950s, the radar site was known as "a great place to find a husband."
[] As a newcomer, I am wondering about recycling. It seemed pretty straightforward: put glass and cans in the orange bucket, put the bucket by the road and well, nothing happened. I now have a half-filled orange recycling bucket. Is there somebody I need to call to be on the pick-up list? Or am I supposed to take it someplace?
<> Boro secretary Linda Bell (who's also secretary of the Chautauqua as well as the Water Authority, and, incidentally, directs the annual art show) says she'll happily accept calls about recycling (964-3270). Amy diBoxco, who coordinates recycling throughout Lebanon County , provides detailed collection service information through a website,
Amy says that residents of the Campmeeting, Stoberdale and Mt. Gretna Heights can find answers to their trash removal questions at the West Cornwall Township office, 272-9841. Those living in Timber Bridge, Timber Hills or Conewago Hill are part of South Londonderry Twp., 838-5556. Recycle bins are available everywhere at no charge, but pickup arrangements differ within each district, as befits a community made up of seven neighborhoods scattered through three distinct municipalities—four if you count that thin slice of South Annville Twp. nudging its way into town just back of the pizza shop.
[] We read your newsletter in Arizona and are coming for a visit to Mt. Gretna this Decembr-r-r-r-r-r in an RV. Can you recommend an RV Park?
<> We're nearly clueless about RV parks hereabouts, but one of Mt. Gretna's most vibrant volunteers, Evelyn Duncan, took up the RVing life several years ago and always stayed at Gretna Oaks Campground ( when she returned for summer visits. Gary Burghoff, "Radar" in the M*A*S*H series, stayed at Pinch Pond Campground when he appeared at the Playhouse a few seasons ago. See ( ).
[] Your item last month about the Mt. Gretna prison that never got built piqued my curiosity. Can you tell me where I might find more about it?
<> That TIME magazine article written 70 years ago is a fascinating place to start. Prison planners promised it would be "gloomier than Alcatraz." See,9171,883635,00.html.
But you can find even greater bone-chilling detail in Phares Gibble's 1991 pamphlet "The Mt. Gretna Maximum State Security Prison: A Momentous Failure." The author's widow, Joanne, still gets occasional calls about the prison, whose concentric design would surely have defied Houdini. She and Phares, a teacher who headed the gifted program at Palmyra High School, moved to Mt. Gretna nearly 50 years ago. She still lives along Butler Road at the site of the former Kauffman's Park, where a swimming pool, lake, roller coaster and carousel operated from 1926 to 1929. For a copy of the pamphlet ($3), contact the Lebanon Historical Society, 924 Cumberland St., Lebanon PA 17042 or e-mail
[] I've looked everywhere on the Internet but can't find a source for art prints of scenes from Mt. Gretna to purchase and frame. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
<> The best place to find Mt. Gretna prints, of course, is the art gallery at Le Sorrelle Café, open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays through Sundays from now through Memorial Day (see But if you can't come to Mt. Gretna, you might try calling "Remember When" gift shop (717-964-2231), which has Eleanor Sarabia's prints of the store, post office, Jigger Shop, Mt. Gretna Inn, Hotel Conewago other local scenes both past and present. Artist Barb Fishman (964-3332) offers similar scenes.
The Internet suggestion is a good one. And some here see a day when patrons might be able to visit an Arts Council website where they could view and place orders for Mt. Gretna art works online, direct from the artists themselves.
That's not yet a reality, but just imagine being able to go to one spot and find a source for works by artists that, in addition to Barb and Eleanor, would also include the creative inspirations of 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); Russ Burke (stained glass); Rodney Cammauf (photography); Art Clagett (photography); Kate Dolan (multimedia); Amy Dove (textiles); Mary Kopala (watercolors, pen and ink, mixed-media); Elizabeth Stutzman (watercolors); Ryan Fretz (clay and porcelain); Madelaine Gray (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); Pearle Kamp Parsells (glass and chinaware); Nancy Rogers (pottery); Floss Russell (pottery); Lou Schellenberg (oils); Peg Smith (stained glass); Sharon Teaman (jewelry); Fred Swarr (acrylic still life); Royal "Tuffy" Travitz (stained glass) and probably a dozen others whose names we missed and whose forgiveness we ask.
Kindest regards,
Roger Groce
P.S. How do we manage to find so many items insert into this monthly newsletter? It's a question we're often asked. The answer: With help from a great many people near and far, people who thoughtfully pass along things that folks are unlikely to read anywhere else. That's what we like best, even if what we print is never likely to make the evening news.
But there's something more: Mary Hernley thinks of Mt. Gretnans as part of her "team," people who buy flowers and help spread joy to those who benefit from her gifts to missionaries. Similarly, those who share their time and talents—answering our questions, forwarding copies of this letter to friends and relatives, helping shape our stories—also spread their gifts. So do the folks at Gretna Computers, who post back issues of this Newsletter on the Web:
We thank them all. As Tal Ben-Shahar – who is teaching the most popular class this year at Harvard (Positive Psychology, research-based ways to live a more satisfying life)—puts it in his book, The Question of Happiness: "Helping oneself and helping others are inextricably intertwined. The more we help others the happier we become, and the happier we become, the more inclined we are to help others."