"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
No. 71 May 4, 2007
STARTING A SUMMER TO SAVOR
May in Mt. Gretna is a curious month, an "almost here" month when
everyone—newsletter writers included—waits for the action to begin.
It's a little like hanging around Churchill Downs in the weeks before Race
Day. Or sitting outside Yankee Stadium before they toss out the first ball.
Or, closer to home, waiting for that first splash to hit the still chilly
waters of Lake Conewago.
That splash will come soon enough. Along with robins. A roving Segway, perhaps.
And returning snowbirds.
Predicting the exact timing of that first big splash is easy. It'll occur
precisely at 8:15 a.m. May 26, as 600 competitors from across the nation sweep
into Mt. Gretna for the 4th annual "Got The Nerve" triathlon. That's
the Memorial Day weekend-opening event that raises money for research into
debilitating disease of the human nervous system.
Race organizer Chris Kagg says the race sold out early this year. He's now
working on final details to assure that all will go smoothly for the 500-yard
swim, 14.8-mile bike race along Rte. 117 and five kilometer-run up to the
Governor Dick tower and back. (During the race, officials will briefly close
Timber Road, and residents will be asked to enter and leave Rte. 117 by Lakeview
Drive.) Chris says he could use a hand with more volunteers to help coordinate
traffic along the route. (See www.gotthenerve.org)
With the big splash, big savings will also be in evidence that morning as
porch sales open throughout the Campmeeting, Chautauqua and—for the
first time this year—Mt. Gretna Heights, attracting hordes of bargain-hunters.
The communitywide sale runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Chautauquans wishing to list their porch location on special visitor maps
should call 964-1830 before May 23. Campmeeting residents can call Bruce Gettle
(964-2319). Mt. Gretna Heights residents will be able to offer their wares
for sale on tables set up outside the Heights Community Building. (Maps showing
all sale locations will be available at the post office.)
Organizers expect several hundred folks to be out seeking treasures throughout
all three communities—and also sampling breakfast items, hot dogs and
baked goods throughout the day at Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church. A
special sale in the Campmeeting will benefit women seeking financial help
for their college educations. And at the library, Lebanon Valley Humane Society
volunteers will hold a "take-what-you-want, pay-what-you-want" book
Topping off the grand Memorial Day weekend event on Saturday will be what
most consider the Main Event—the Arts Council's grand "Summer Premiere,"
starting at 4 p.m. Neither stuffy nor formal, it's an occasion where volunteers
bring the desserts (between 3 and 3:30 p.m., please)—a friendly and
fun gathering where everybody in Mt. Gretna's seven neighborhoods, from Timber
Bridge to Mt. Gretna Heights, comes to meet, mingle, and catch up on a winter's
worth of news.
Janice Balmer and her sister Leslie Hall Buchanan are co-chairing the event
for the fourth year in a row, with help from friends and family who will turn
the staid Hall of Philosophy into a "Paint that Tune" extravaganza.
The theme hints at what's in store: "performance painting" by Mt.
Gretna artist Fred Swarr who, as well as offering his Summer Calendar cover
art at the Arts Council's celebrated auction, will be creating a second painting
on the spot—to live piano music. At the end of the day, that freshly
created artwork will be auctioned too, capping an event that annually provides
much of the funding needed to pay for those summer calendars (about 10,000
or so), which have become a staple of Mt. Gretna summer life.
The auction itself probably ranks as one of the best anywhere around: a cornucopia
of treasures ("this year, the finest I've ever seen," says Janice)
donated by residents, works by artists who exhibited at last year's art show,
and newly discovered collectables that show up every year as if by magic—some
created for this event by artists who live in the community and share in its
It begins with a splash and all happens in a single day. A fitting start for
the season ahead.
STUFF YOU'RE UNLIKELY TO READ ELSEWHERE
 Continuing a plan to eventually replace aging Met Ed street lamps throughout
the Chautauqua district, borough crews will this fall begin a road improvement
project along Brown Avenue. The work will bring new water and storm drainage
lines, sandstone curbing as well as streetlights with energy-saving bulbs
that emit a soft yellow glow, reminiscent of lamplights from an earlier era.
The first fixtures have already been installed in Chautauqua Park and on Muhlenberg
Avenue. Borough chief Bill Care says they'll suspend the Brown Avenue work
during summer months but should finish the job in about two years.
 So if the Summer Premiere is the biggest event of Mt. Gretna's summer season,
what's the second biggest? In terms of communitywide anticipation, it's Big
Junk Day. That's when everybody in Chautauqua with big discards to get rid
of—old dishwashers, balky (and bulky) refrigerators, and stoves that
nobody wants; or old rugs that have lived several through useful lives and
now are seeking a new setting, barbecue grills that have toasted too many
hot dogs—all join other unwanteds along the curb. Until the pickup crews
come by on Monday, those discards are available to anyone—free for the
taking. And most, by golly, disappear long before the pickup crews arrive.
Big Junk Day (officially, "Large Item Collection" Day) is Monday,
June 18. But that's anticlimactic. The real action occurs the weekend before—on
Saturday and Sunday. Everybody in town (and dozens of visitors from out of
town) know the time has come to roam the streets of Mt. Gretna borough, looking
for treasures. Some come in pickups, collecting everything from Philadelphia
Eagles floor lamps that once brought Christmas morning delight to sleighs
and bicycles that belonged to grandchildren whose own youngsters—scattered
across the continent—are now struggling to find storage space in their
own basements and garages.
Highlighting it all is the big to-do at 108 Lancaster Avenue, where Thatcher
For the past eight years, Thatcher has been heralding Big Junk Eve (on Sunday,
6 p.m.-8 p.m.) with a celebration uniquely his own: "Junk Dogs"—cooked
and served from a discarded grill he once found, prepared in an exuberant
spirit of celebration—available to everyone who stops by for a bite
to eat, soft drinks and lemonade, and a friendly greeting. Many who come Thatch
has never met before. No matter. Everyone's welcome. It's all a part of the
Big Junk Day festivities, coming June 18.
 Would you like to serve as an usher at "Falstaff," Verdi's comic
opera opening the 2007 Playhouse season June 2? Center Stage Opera Company
director Kathryn Foster needs volunteers and invites them to e-mail her at
email@example.com. This will be the Harrisburg-based touring opera company's
second Mt. Gretna appearance. The talented group presented "Otello,"
starring Placido Domingo protégé Alejandro Olmedo, here last
June. This year's opera buffa (described online at http://www.csopera.org./)
"will be sung in English.
 ZAPP—the electronic system the art show used this year to receive,
process and present artist entries—"couldn't have worked more smoothly,"
says show director Linda Bell. Four judges (a jeweler and three painters from
Hazelton, Lititz and the Elizabethtown area) evaluated this year's entries.
As images appeared on a high-resolution screen, judges cast their numerical
score electronically. Results were available immediately, allowing Linda to
send out acceptance and rejection notices quickly. About 250 of the 520 entries
qualified, plus last year's Judges' Choice winners.
 How are art show judges themselves selected? "I've built up a list
over the years," says Linda, who has now been running the Mt. Gretna
show for nearly a decade. To keep the show fresh, she rarely uses the same
judge twice. The biggest single category of artist entries this year came
from jewelers, she says. Fewest entries were received from sculptors. Linda
limits the number of exhibitors eligible for selection in each category to
assure an overall balance to the show, always held during the third weekend
 The 2007 Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show poster is ready. And if last year's
sell-out is any indication, you'll want to act fast to make sure your collection
is complete. Artist Kevin Cramer created this year's design, following an
antique postcard theme that he and fellow artist Barb Yashinsky came up with
last year, producing the most sought-after art show poster ever. This year's
version (which comes with a postcard worth $1 when redeemed at the admission
gates) is available both at the borough office ($10) and by mail ($11.50).
Make checks payable to Mt. Gretna Art Show, P.O. Box 637, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.)
See http://mtgretnaarts.com/ for details.
 Conewago Hill resident Val Sarabia finished second in The Wall Street Journal's
latest "Dartboard" contest, in which ordinary folks pit their investment
skills against random darts tossed onto a listing of publicly traded stocks.
Usually the darts win. But Val's team averaged a 12% gain over the three-month
period ending March 31, which beat the Dow-Jones average of 5.8% and the darts'
11% gain. Val's own pick, ConocoPhillips, rose 15%. (Top honors went to a
Tennessee engineer, whose investment in a Chinese cell phone producer soared
 Canoe for sale? Chautauquan Michelle Robinson wants to buy one for use
at the lake. If you'd like to sell yours, give her a call at (267) 767-9644.
Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Sharpshooters come for the competition, but connoisseurs come for the food.
It's the fire company's spring block shoot tomorrow (May 5) at the fire hall,
noon to 5 p.m. Sure, there are prizes—and the pride of winning top awards.
But, for decades, what attracts crowds has been Alice McKeone's legendary
ham and bean soup—created from a recipe her grandmother first used.
Added lures include hot dogs and sauer kraut, conversation, camaraderie and
cookies—ingredients all in a popular fire company fund-raiser the whole
 Information Center coordinator Jessica Kosoff still has a few spots open
for volunteers who'd like to help answer visitor questions at the Carnegie
Avenue site (near the gift shop) this summer. Hours available include June
9 (3 to 5 p.m.), June 17 (3 to 5 p.m.), June 23 (5 to 7 p.m.), June 24 (1-3
p.m.) and June 30 (5 to 7 p.m.) To volunteer, contact Jessica at email@example.com.
FOR GIFT SHOP'S FINAL SEASON, A NEW MYSTERY THRILLER
Entering its 15th and final season, "Remember When" gift shop will
be holding a storewide 10% off sale (except fire company coffee mugs) every
weekend from now until Memorial Day, when the shop resumes its regular Tuesdays-Sundays,
noon-9 p.m. summer schedule.
Reenie Macsisak looks forward to seeing old friends and offering a new item
this year, the Mt. Gretna-based novel "Murder in the Grove," by
Californian Larry Zimmerman, who spent summers as a youngster at his grandparents'
Campmeeting cottage. "It is a quick read but has a surprise ending,"
says Reenie. To order a copy, e-mail "Remember When" at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call (717) 964-2231.
STAYING FIT AFTER 50
He's 51 and up to his ears in preparing for the summer season, but that doesn't
stop Gretna Theater's producing director Larry Frenock from pursuing a passion.
The energetic director who is now helping revitalize the nation's second-oldest
summer stock theater has just returned from the U.S. Adult National Figure
Skating Competition with silver and bronze medals for second- and third-place
It's not the first time he's won. He has nine national skating medals to his
Why does he do it? "Skating is great aerobic exercise," he says.
"It holds an expandable waistline at bay." So even on mornings when
he doesn't feel like it, Larry heads out to practice at the Hershey Park arena.
"Skating practice forces me to get 'up and at 'em so I don't have a bad
skate in competition. Stepping on the scales can get me to the rink, too,"
The Hershey skating club, "one of the friendliest I've found, threw a
send-off celebration before I left for nationals," says Larry, who took
over the Mt. Gretna Theater assignment last year after leading the Stamford
Theater Works in Connecticut.
A native of Bucks County, he now lives in Spring Hill Acres. Larry has been
so busy getting ready for this year's summer theater that he scarcely had
time to practice skating. "Considering how little time I had to prepare,
I was amazed to finish in the top four."
How long can he keep up competitive skating? At the national skating event
this year, one competitor was 87. "That's Category 5. We call it the
'anywhere between 55 and death category," says Larry, who first stepped
out onto the ice at age 39 when someone gave him ice-skating tickets for Christmas.
He intends to keep skating "as long as my joints hold out."
THE MT. GRETNA PRISON THAT NEVER WAS
Mt. Gretna's escape-proof prison—designed to be "gloomier than
Alcatraz"—is the topic of a four-page article in the current issue
of Newsfront, published by Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections: http://www.cor.state.pa.us/press/cwp/view.asp?a=462&q=131750&pressNav=|
Based largely on a Lebanon Historical Society pamphlet by the late Phares
Gibble of Mt. Gretna, the article tells why escape from the circular towers
would have been unimaginable: "Drilling to escape would only lead to
another cell. Vitrified glass-like materials in cell walls would blunt any
prison-made chisel. Guards would be able to look down on every cell, unseen
by inmates, through slotted ceilings. Electronic eyes would scan passages
that had no angular surfaces where prisoners could hide."
Although the project promised construction jobs that would have helped lift
Lebanon County out of the Depression, it quickly ran out of funds. All that
now remains (near Lawn) are a few traces of the foundation, largely overgrown
with weeds in summer, but visible in photos taken during the fall. See also
the TIME archives for an article, "Pennsylvania's Mt. Gretna Prison,"
first published 70 years ago: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,883635,00.html.
OTHER NEWS TO KEEP YOU IN TOUCH
 Mt. Gretna borough will make its second leaf pickup June 4; brush collections
are scheduled May 7 and June 11. In Mt. Gretna Heights, the residue of winter
has already been collected, and in the Campmeeting, residents may set out
leaves or brush for collection at any time. No municipal leaf or brush collections
are available in other Mt. Gretna neighborhoods.
 The Mt. Gretna Reading Group launches its summer series at the Library
May 31 with Diana Setterfield's "Thirteenth Tale." Like to join
in? Call 964-3481. Programs begin at 7 p.m. Other works they'll discuss this
year include Keith Donohue's "The Stolen Child" and William Faulkner's
"Light in August."
 Governor Dick Park's "Mission: Discovery" series starts May 19
for youngsters curious about creatures that live under rocks, leaves and logs
in the forest. Coordinator Audrey Manspeaker says the programs, extending
over six Saturdays through Aug. 19, will offer discovery games in the woods,
answer questions and raise new ones, explore the forest's 'big picture,' and
give children a chance to meet small residents such as bugs and salamanders.
All programs in the free series (for youngsters age 6 to 10) are from 10 a.m.-11
a.m. Children must be with an adult to help with supervision. Details: (717)
964-3808 or e-mail: email@example.com
 Other free events at Governor Dick Park this month include high school
senior Brandy Watts' second program (May 12 at 10 a.m.) on local history—describing
railroad operations at Rausch Gap, once the largest community in Stoney Valley.
Also, Susan Wheeler and Ron Laughlin will lead a nature walk, starting from
the environmental center (May 26 at 9 a.m.) to identify birds, plants, shrubs
and trees. Binoculars and field guides will be helpful, but not required.
Details: (717)964-3808 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Music at Gretna opening a Speakeasy at the Timbers? For one night only,
June 8, you can join Roaring Twenties interpreter, jazz singer (and New York
City Tavern on the Green performer) Barbara Rosene. She'll help launch Music
at Gretna's 2007 summer jazz season with a special evening of dinner and music
at the Timbers Restaurant, where that famous roast beef, turkey ham and veal
buffet will be served from 6 to 7:30 p.m., followed by the show at 8. Details:
MT. GRETNA'S LONELIEST STREETS
Pulitzer-prize winning author Bill Ecenbarger, a former Brown Avenue resident,
once described Mt. Gretna as a place where "all the streets are named
after schools with losing football teams." Harvard, Yale, Brown and Lehigh—all
are embedded in the Mt. Gretna lexicon. But how about schools like Swarthmore,
Bucknell or Ursinus? Didn't Mt. Gretna's early planners ever think of them?
Turns out, they did. Swarthmore Avenue does exist. But only on paper. So do
Bucknell, Ursinus, Albright, and Chicago avenues. The only trouble is, nobody
ever got around to making them a reality. Over the years, in times when few
people took such things as building codes seriously, cottage dwellers happily
leaped across phantom streets and fuzzy property lines, overlaying them with
garages, decks, and sometimes even extensions of entire cottages.
Streets that never got built? They include Berks, Cornell, Franklin and Dauphin
avenues in Chautauqua, plus numbered streets that have long since slipped
from memory. As for Matthews and Carter avenues? You'll find them in the Campmeeting,
but only as faint lines on dusty charts.
Country & Western singer Emmylou Harris laments that "Lonely Street"
has a "sad, sad tale to tell." But nothing's lonelier than the streets
that even the planners forgot.
7 Mt. Gretna artists will open their creative laboratories to the public
this fall as part of the 2007 Studio Tour Nov. 10-11. Spanning three Central
Pennsylvania counties, the tour (http://www.art-studio-tour.com/index.html)
will offer visitors a glimpse inside the native habitats of area artists.
Mt. Gretnans on this year's tour include:
<> Shelby Applegate (whose latest work includes large flower paintings;
stitched, painted and embellished handmade paper; large abstract wall hangings;
monotypes and collages).
<> Barbara Fishman (specializing in watercolors of still life and
landscapes created through soft, subtle impressions; and abstract figurative
oil paintings of images that represent the artist's inner vision.)
<> Madelaine Gray (award-winning color photographer with photographs
of the south of France and other locations. See website www.madelainegray.com.)
<> Mary Kopala (who creates impressions of urban life, expressing
villages and the countrysides of Southern France and Pennsylvania—in
watercolors, pen and ink and mixed-media.)
<> Les Miller (creator of jewelry crafted from natural domestic and
exotic hardwoods—without using ink, stain or paint—and some
designs with inserted seashells.)
<> Elizabeth Stutzman (who uses traditional and experimental watercolor
techniques to create semi-realistic landscapes, florals and still lifes.
<> Frederick D. Swarr (offering limited edition prints of acrylic
still lifes on canvas—with subjects that include wine bottles and
glasses, guitars, hats, and food. See: www.fdswarr.com.
90 Imagine having only 90 seconds to convince a boss to hire you, a girl
to marry you, or a teacher to give you an "A." That's how tough
it is to win a spot on the Mt. Gretna Playhouse stage. Over four days of
recent auditions, exactly 1,011 actors and actresses lined up in New York.
Theirs was a less than 5% chance of being chosen—with 90 seconds to
convince managing director Larry Frenock and casting director Christian
St. Girard of their talents.
You'll see the 47 winners onstage this summer in "Mack the Knife: The
Life and Music of Bobby Darin," "Made in America: Irving Berlin,"
"The Sunshine Boys," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Smoke
on the Mountain Homecoming." Tickets are now available: www.gretnatheatre.com
QUESTIONS READERS ASK
 Whom should I contact about leasing the building where "Remember
When" gift shop is located?
<> The building (available next January) is owned by the Pennsylvania
Chautauqua, which is now accepting proposals from interested parties. An
advertisement scheduled to appear in the Arts Council's 2007 Summer Calendar
says that proposals must be submitted by Sept. 1. Inquiries should be directed
to the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, P.O. Box 637, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Tel.
(717) 964-3270 or e-mail LBell83151@comcast.net.
<> We have no idea whose idea it was to clear off the end of the fields
near Pinch Road on 72, but it makes it so much safer to turn left onto Pinch.
I'm sure they've saved people traveling to Mt. Gretna from serious accidents
by improving this sight line. Our thanks to whoever was responsible.
 How many accidents will that sensible step will avoid? No one can say.
Rest assured, however, it will make a difference, since trucks rounding
that curve are coming downhill, many times still readjusting from hours
of cruising at turnpike speeds.
PennDOT supervisor Ken Swezey, who handles road maintenance in Lancaster
County's northwestern sector, ordered obstructions cleared along the east
side of Rte. 72, improving visibility for motorists making that heart-in-the-throat
left turn onto Pinch.
If you now find it easy, thank Ken Swezey. He appreciates your message.
"Mostly, we only hear complaints," he says. He invites anyone
noticing roadway hazards to give PennDOT a call. Although accident statistics
often guide PennDOT actions, accident prevention is always a better option,
 I probably missed it, but I've never seen an article in The Mt. Gretna
Newsletter about why they drain the lake each year. I've heard that grandfathers
sometimes spin yarns about "The Ghost of Mt. Gretna" for their
grandchildren. (Postmaster Steve Strickler has an especially dramatic version,
I'm told.) And some have even said that's when they hunt for bodies that
have been missing all winter long. What's the real story?
<> Although truth is often stranger than fiction, in this case your
fictional accounts take top honors. The real reason they drain the lake
in March and April is simply to repair ice damage that may have occurred
to piers and other structures over the winter. It happens every year, and
our newsletter repeats that explanation from time to time. But, frankly,
we're always eager to hear the stories grandfathers have, in the meantime,
cooked up for young, impressionable ears.
 I heard from another mom at Mt. Gretna Nursery School that Kindermusik
would be held this summer in Gretna on Friday mornings. Do you know who
the contact person is for registration?
<> Jessica Kosoff (email@example.com) says there are still plenty
of openings for Kindermusik Kamp, the summer music series for children.
Starting June 1, the programs will offer opportunities for both parents
to "discover new ways to appreciate the world's most respected music"
at the Chautauqua Hall of Philosophy. Classes will be grouped by age: newborns
to 18 months, 18 months to 3 years, 3- to 5-year olds, and ages 5 to 7.
They will be held on Fridays and Saturdays throughout June. Preregister
by May 18. For details, call 964-1310.
 My husband, who's normally at work during the day, was at home recuperating
from minor surgery when the fire siren went off. "What's that all about?"
he asked. "How would I know?" I answered. Later, someone told
me there is a way to find out what our firefighters are responding to when
the siren sounds. Can you tell me how?
<> You can find out what's happening when the alarm goes off by checking
the online summary that immediately appears online at http://lebanonema.org/pager/monitor.html.
Look for the emergency associated with Station 38—that's the Mt. Gretna
fire department. You'll be amazed at how many emergencies they're called
on to handle: House fires, brushfires, entrapped motorists, gasoline spills,
trees down over power lines, smoke alarms, unsafe liquid spills . . . it's
all in a day's work for our volunteers—people who give a lot, asking
personally for nothing in return—except, perhaps, the satisfaction
of knowing they've done their best.
A FACE THAT LOOKS FAMILIAR?
Ever wonder when you're watching TV where you've "seen that face before"?
Could be it's one you first glimpsed at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse.
Former Rockette Piper Lindsay Arpan, who appeared in "Cole" here
last summer, was in the movie "The Producers" and is now touring
with the national company of "Spamalot." (Piper recalls singing
"Down in the Depths," a soulful, heartbreaking tune in "Cole"
while a summer thunderstorm raged over the Playhouse. "Even the most
successful Broadway show couldn't have provided a backdrop like that,"
Amanda Sprecher, the Manheim, Pa. 14-year-old making her Broadway debut
last month in "Inherit the Wind," first appeared on the Mt. Gretna
stage as "Ticklish," a dwarf in "Snow White." "All
the dwarfs had to whistle as they entered the stage, but I didn't know how,"
she says. "Renee Krizan taught me, and I practiced hard. I didn't want
to be the only dwarf that couldn't whistle. All that practice paid off,
and I finally learned how to be a 'whistling dwarf' too."
Barbara Walsh, whose mementos from her current Broadway role in "Company"
will be part of Gretna Theater's Gala fundraiser this October, made her
Mt. Gretna debut in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Besides Broadway
roles in "Hairspray," "Falsettos" and Rock n' Roll:
The First 5,000 Years, she appears on TV's "Law & Order" series.
And Kathryn Meisle, a star in Gretna Theater's 1995 production of "The
Philadelphia Story," was featured last month in ABC-TV's "Brothers
and Sisters," guest starring with Calista Flockhart and Rob Lowe. She's
also appeared in "CSI: Miami," "Without a Trace," "Judging
Amy," "Law & Order:SVU," and "The Guardian."
So, you never know. The face that looks familiar probably is.
P.S. Generally the most frequent crisis we hear about after dispatching
this e-mail newsletter is that in households with two or more readers, someone
has prematurely hit the "delete" key. Meaning, of course, the
other inhabitant didn't get a chance to catch up on this month's news from
Another crisis looms when regular deliveries of The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
suddenly stop. That's when readers remember that they changed their e-mail
address but forgot to tell us. So if you're planning to switch to a new
e-mail address, be sure to let us know. And if someone deletes the newsletter
before you read it, remember that thanks to the folks at Gretna Computing,
you can always find previous issues at http://mtgretna.com/news.
Our continuing thanks also to the legions of folks who regularly share copies
of this letter with friends and neighbors without e-mail connections. .
. and to those who continue to answer our questions and send us news to
share with their fellow Mt. Gretnans, wherever they happen to live throughout