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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
No. 74 August 10, 2007

It may be a stretch, but in August, Mt. Gretna sometimes seems busier than Manhattan. Well, okay, that is a stretch. Still, compared to April, January or November, August is a whirlwind month—filled with more visitors during a single 30-day interval than probably are here the other 335 days of the year combined. But that’s likely the way things have been for a long time—even before the dawning of the art show 33 years ago.
And those who were here 80 years ago (quite a few of them, in fact) can remember days when Mt. Gretna was truly bustling—a time when thousands of soldiers, railroad passengers and summer vacationers converged on the site first envisioned, then created, by Robert Habersham Coleman. We few who remain are beneficiaries of his dream.
So as summer reaches a crescendo, and life begins to pulse at a rate that some may fear edges toward tumult, remember this: As the curtain descends on Labor Day, days both cooler and quieter lie ahead. And when the flurry of summer is over, Mt. Gretna’s year-rounders will savor what many have come to regard as the very best time of the year.

[] The $1.9 million Rte. 117 resurfacing project won’t begin until mid-March next year. Projects of this scope normally take 90 to 100 working days, says PennDOT manager LaConie Jackson. That means the work probably won’t be finished until late next July, or possibly even next fall if paving must be suspended during the busy summer season. Previously, officials had hoped to get started this fall and finish sometime next spring.
[] Fire company officials say they’ll attend that West Cornwall Township meeting Monday (Aug. 13) at 7 p.m. to protest an effort to silence the siren that calls volunteers into action. Newspaper accounts say that 60 residents signed a petition, but township officials reported this week that 13 of the signers had already asked that their signatures be removed. Another 52 Mt. Gretnans had written in support of keeping the siren. Although the petition stirred local headlines, township secretary Carol McLaughlin said she felt the issue could turn out to be “much ado about nothing.”
[] So you’re at the Jigger Shop and one of the top five violinists in the world is standing next to you in a long line—fretting that she’ll never have enough time to eat her ice cream and still rehearse for a concert that’s soon to begin. What do you do? Exactly what Carol Mayer did: Ask your neighbor Drew Allwein for a little help.
The Jigger Shop co-owner scooped the dish himself. And Midori—a diminutive sensation who is at home in Carnegie Hall, London’s Covent Gardens or any of the world’s other premier concert settings—sat quietly under the trees, enjoying her pre-performance treat. Afterwards, she spotted Carol at the concession stand, thanked her again, autographed a program, and said, “Mt. Gretna is beautiful, very beautiful.” Then she was off—headed for a flight the next morning to Tokyo.
[] Heading toward their first anniversary in Mt. Gretna, pizza shop owners Damien and Mariano Orea say it’s been a good summer so far—but not quite as great as they’d like. Still, their business is building. And August is surely to be the biggest month of all. Booths are now available, delivery service begins at 4 p.m., and lunchtime crowds are growing. Damien says the first-year experience convinces them they'll make it, even when Mt. Gretna slips into its quieter winter tempo.
Showing community spirit that Mt. Gretnans applaud, the pizza guys are now sending $1 to the fire department every time you place a pizza order on Monday and Tuesday. Damien hopes the incentive will stimulate Mt. Gretnans’ pizza taste buds as each week begins—helping him, helping our firefighters, too. Mt. Gretna Pizzeria: 964-1853.
[] Artwork reflecting Mt. Gretna inspirations appears at the Arts Council's new website—Mt. Gretna Area Artists. You’ll find examples of their work and how to contact such artists as Shelby Applegate, Barbara Fishman, Madelaine Gray, Dale Grundon, Carol Snyder, Elizabeth Stutzman, Fred Swarr, Kate Dolan, Sabrinah Cooper, Scott Shea, Gerry Boltz and Karen Galbraith at, a reference to keep handy when you’re looking for gifts that you just won’t find anywhere else.
[] Peggy O'Neil's visit to the Mt. Gretna nursery school last year was a sensation. "The children just loved her, and she had a really good time, too," says Carol Mather. She invites others to visit, read a story, teach a song, or play an instrument—adding a delightful classroom interlude to the September-through-May sessions. Call Carol at 964-2208. Classes (at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church) begin next month. Carol says she still has two openings in the class for four-year-olds, but the three-year class is full.
[] Will there be another deer hunt at Governor Dick Forest this year? As of now, it looks like the answer is yes, but nobody’s sure of when, how many hunters they’ll allow or other details, says board member Chuck Allwein. A Department of Conservation and Natural Resources deer density study this spring showed that the deer herd is still too large.
After decades of “no hunting allowed” on the 1,105-acre tract, a court order opened the forest to limited hunting two years ago. That yielded 55 deer in four days, shot by 100 hunters using only bows, shotguns and flintlock muzzle-loaders. Last year—in two days of fog-draped conditions followed by a third day of high winds and a fourth drenched by heavy rains—60 hunters again using limited weapons claimed only 15 deer. Forester Barry Rose, estimating the deer population at “more than 100” three years ago, said that a forest the size of Governor Dick Park can support only 20 to 35 deer. A DCNR official added that, left unchecked, deer populations can double every two or three years. Chuck says the park’s deer committee will meet again this month to review the matter.
[] Center Stage Opera Company plans to return next year, maybe with “La Boheme.” But the exact date and performance details are still being worked out, says founder and artistic director Kathryn McCarney Foster. The traveling Central Pennsylvania company ( made its first appearance here with "Otello" two years ago and returned last June with scenes from the comic opera "Falstaff" to open the Playhouse season.
[] Jack Bitner's "History of Mt. Gretna," a presentation originally scheduled June 15, will be presented Aug. 15 at the Hall of Philosophy, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Jack, a noted aerospace engineer who has become known in the past 30 years as Mt. Gretna's official historian, recently was honored by 150 friends and relatives on his 90th birthday at the Timbers.
[] Entering its final month of operation, Remember When gift shop is offering 30 to 50 percent discounts. “All things must go before the shop closes on Labor Day,” says Reenie Macsisak, who has operated the shop with her husband Joe for the past 15 years. “We’re going to miss all our customers, but we’ll have more time to take part in all that Mt. Gretna has to offer, travel and enjoy life. Plus, since when one door closes another opens, who knows what we will be doing next?” She says that as far as she knows, no one has yet offered to rent the gift shop for another business. “That’s too bad,” she says. “We sold a lot of tickets for Music at Gretna, the Heritage Festival and other programs at the Tabernacle as well as gift items for the fire company.”
[] That season-ending communitywide picnic at the Hall of Philosophy Sept. 1 starts at 4 p.m. Who’s invited? Everybody in Timber Hills, Conewago Hill, Chautauqua, Campmeeting, Stoberdale, Timber Bridge, and Mt. Gretna Heights. Bring a covered dish to share, but don’t worry about plates, utensils or drinks (they’re provided). Call 964-1830 so planners will know how many are coming and what you’ll bring.

[] Yes, tickets are still available for that Big Band bash at the beach Aug. 25. Organizers Ceylon and Karen Leitzel say the After Hours Big Band will be there, and it’s okay to bring your own lawn chairs, food and nonalcoholic beverages. Reservations: 717-964-1829 or 866- 4274. Mail orders to Mt. Gretna Big Band, P.O. Box 202, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064-0202. Proceeds benefit the fire company, Heritage Festival and other Mt. Gretna nonprofit groups.

[] What’s the best way to relax after a hectic Art Show weekend? Spend Sunday evening with the Susquehanna Chorale, filling the Tabernacle with song, starting at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 19. It’s one of the best-attended events in the increasingly popular “Summer at the Tabernacle” series, playing to overflow crowds this season.
[] Among other events still to come in the Tabernacle series: Bob Troxell’s Dixieland Connection at the jazz worship service this Sunday, Aug. 12, starting at 10 a.m., the hymn festival and remembrance service with the Rev. Darrell Woomer and Rev. Rodney Shearer at 7 that evening, and the Lancaster Brass Quintet Sunday Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m.
[] Playwright Maureen Grape will be on hand to answer questions following the premiere reading of her new two-act play, “Rhyme and Reason,” at the Hall of Philosophy Aug. 28. Mt. Gretnan Eton Churchill, just back from Nova Scotia, will be present for the first staged reading of his latest work Aug. 30. Both productions begin at 8:15 p.m., followed by refreshments and discussions with the authors.
[] Chautauqua resident Bill Gifford discusses his new book “Ledyard: In Search of the First American Explorer” here Aug. 24. The work has received impressive reviews in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Washington Times reviewer Eric Wills praises the author’s candid portrayal of Ledyard, whose career as an explorer blossomed during James Cook’s search for the fabled Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Ledyard was “undeniably a ladies’ man,” writes Wills, making an appointment with a married prostitute, flirting with a nun in a Paris hospital, and saying of the opposite sex: "I have always remarked that women, in all countries, are civil, obliging, tender, and humane; that they are ever inclined to be gay and cheerful, timorous and modest; and that they do not hesitate, like men, to perform a generous action."
Now if that doesn’t arouse your curiosity, nothing we can think of will. The author’s talk begins at 10 a.m. in the Hall of Philosophy.
[] What’s the single best action you can take to help police? Report anything that seems out of the ordinary, says police chief Bruce Harris. “Many times, people tell us a week after they’ve seen something suspicious, ‘I was going to call, but I didn’t want to bother you because I know you’re busy.’ Yet what they may have seen was a crime-in-progress.”
Police officers always respond, he says. “If we’re busy, calls get prioritized. We’ll respond when we have an officer available, or we’ll ask a neighboring department to respond until we can get an officer clear.”
[] Naturalist, artist and raconteur Dale Grundon's annual hike to see the cardinal flowers begins Saturday Aug. 25 at 9:30 a.m. Hikers will meet at the bridge over Conewago Creek, next to the pizza shop.
[] Coming up in the popular “Tuesday at 10” series of book reviews: (Aug. 14) Jeff Faux's “The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future, and What It Will Take to Win it Back,” reviewed by Chautauqua resident Paul Heise, a retired Lebanon Valley College professor of economics and writer of a lively political commentary that appears in the Lebanon Daily News and elsewhere; (Aug. 21) Matthew Stewart's “The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza and the Fate of God in the Modern World,” reviewed by Jeff Robins; and (Aug. 28) Charles J. Shields' “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee,” reviewed by Timber Hills' Howard Applegate, retired chairman of the history department at LVC. All programs begin at 10 a.m. at the Hall of Philosophy.
[] How to make the most of a Saturday if you're only six years old or so? Scamper up to Ms. Manspeaker's final Mission: Discovery class at Governor Dick Nature Center tomorrow (Aug. 11) at 10 a.m. Even though it takes place in the middle of summer, it's called "Ready, Set, Winter" and tells how Governor Dick's creatures prepare for the seasons ahead, the mysteries of migration, hibernation and other strategies for surviving the winter. Sessions are free for youngsters six to 10, but adults must accompany their children. Details: 964-3808.
[] What’s ahead at Governor Dick Park? Steve Rannels talks about butterflies, moths and caterpillars Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. Richard Light and Tom Powers tell how to identify animal tracks of raccoons, porcupines, mink and other animals, including bobcats and black bears, at the Nature Center Aug. 25, 10 a.m.
Kent and Mary Jane Fox, who moved from Mt. Gretna to Hilton Head, SC four years ago, were puzzled this week when vacationing friends from Lebanon asked them to stop by their rental condo for dessert. Dessert? Something you prepare for guests when you’re on vacation?
Yes, it turns out that former golfing buddy Don Dreibelbis’ youngsters work at the Jigger Shop, and they arranged with the owners to transport all the ingredients of a genuine Jigger to Hilton Head. Jigger Shop owner Chuck Allwein readily agreed, recalling how in the days when Kent still lived here he placed an order for a dozen jiggers at the close of each season—storing the ice cream treats in his freezer, then pulling them out on snowy winter nights when friends gathered around their fireside in Timber Hills.
“I tell you, that was the highlight of the week,” says Kent, who lived here nearly 40 years. Adds Mary Jane, "It was just delightful. They brought along extra ingredients, and Kent's had a jigger every night since.”
105 When she peeked around the corner to see who was playing a piano in the Tabernacle that summer day in 1919, the bashful high school senior had no idea that she was also peeking into a lifetime that would stretch over more than a century. The self-taught pianist she glimpsed, seven years older than she, would subsequently become a minister, a Mt. Gretna cottage owner and—five years later—her husband. They used a $1,000 wedding gift from his Philadelphia congregation to buy a cottage here and, after their honeymoon, a brand new car—which the salesman taught him to drive on their way out of the showroom. Later, Campmeeting neighbors serenaded them with a symphony of pots and pans—timed to the precise hour when the newlyweds turned out the lights and went to bed. Yes, Mt. Gretnans were a fun-loving bunch then, too. The mother of Mt. Gretna's David M. Long and Janet Jermon (and aunt of Paul Enck), Eleanor Long turned 105 last month. She’s now basking in the glow of warm memories at Lebanon Valley Home of the United Church of Christ, 550 E. Mail St, Annville, PA 17002.
Eleanor undoubtedly knows another long-time Mt. Gretna resident, Sara Hoffsommer, 101 on Sept. 3, who’s now at Country Meadows, Apt. 93, 4905 E. Trindle Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA 17050. Both ladies, we’re told, enjoy hearing from folks here.
235 Pounds or so, weighed by the tasty pig that chef-on-the-go Becky Briody will roast at the fire company’s next fundraiser Sept. 15. Delicately sprinkled with Lawry’s seasoned salt, and slow-cooked in a roaster where Becky carefully adds a can of beer for extra flavoring, the porcine guest of honor will likely attract hundreds of Mt. Gretnans throughout the afternoon and evening, from around 4 p.m. until 10 o’clock, all for a $15 donation to our firefighters.
542,0000 Estimated number of visitors to the Mt. Gretna Art Show since it began 33 years ago. They’ve included Miss Pennsylvania, at least one Pennsylvania Governor, and the current Lt. Gov. Katherine Baker Knoll.
Reed Dixon, an art show co-founder along with Bruce Johnson, recalls that Sen. John Heinz was a surprise visitor at the very first art show in 1974. Still painting (see, Reed recently added Robert Heilman’s Lebanon Fine Art and Picture Frame gallery to the East Coast locations where his works are displayed. He joins other area artists, including Mt. Gretnans Barb Fishman and Eva Bender, both of whom were among the art show’s first exhibitors.
979,200 Bubbles to be blown during the art show from Ginny Minnich’s automatic bubble-blowing machine on Princeton Avenue. The glistening orbs should begin wafting over crowds just as the show starts Aug. 18 and continue right up until it closes on Sunday at 5 p.m.

<> Is there a notary public in Mt. Gretna?
[] We could have sworn there was, but, to our surprise, nobody knew of one last week—not even borough office manager Linda Bell, who knows darned near everything. We’re hoping a reader will update us, but, for now, the closest notary we’re aware of is at the AAA’s Quentin Circle office off Rte. 72 south of Lebanon. Notary services are free to AAA members but available for a fee to non-members.
<> Why does that radar speed sign appear along Rte.117, then suddenly disappear, from time to time?
[] Officially called a Radar Trailer, the unit is owned by Cornwall Borough police, who assign it to 12 different locations throughout West Cornwall Township. In the summer, it appears most often in Mt. Gretna because of increased activity and pedestrian traffic here, says police chief Bruce Harris. “When the batteries need to be charged, we bring it back to the station for two or three days and give it a wash.” How long can it go without recharging? That depends on whether it’s in a sunny location where sunlight can hit its solar panel, or whether it’s located in full or partial shade. Also affecting battery life is traffic volume and how the radar gun is aimed (the more traffic it clocks, the more times it flashes a speed per vehicle, the quicker the batteries run down). Oh, the things you’d never know if you didn’t read this newsletter.
<> With gift shop owners (and humans-in-service to the Mt. Gretna fairies) Joe and Reenie Macsisak moving across town to Valley Road, what will become of their fairy garden?
[] Newly appointed assistants Carol Morgan and Kay Hetrich are ready to step in, says Reenie, “and don’t be surprised to see Joe there, too.” How many people have visited the fairy garden over the years? Thousands, says Reenie, “from early in the morning until late at night.”
She reports that another engagement has been recorded in this season’s fairy book, along with notes and drawings “that break your heart or make you laugh out loud.” The Macsisaks plan to turn those notes over to their 15-year-old granddaughter Chelsea, who has collected the coins people leave behind for the fairies (last summer, $91.47 in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters) and donates them to the Salvation Army and Muscular Dystrophy, charities which help children.
<> Who is allowed to use the Mt. Gretna tennis courts?
[] Although by tradition it’s known as the Mt. Gretna Men’s Club, its members include women as well. And anyone who’s paid dues for tennis privileges (there are 104 tennis members) is allowed to play and occasionally invite guests. The club also has 20 non-tennis members, who can enjoy the club’s shuffleboard and pavilion facilities. Interested in joining? Call club president Willie Brandt, 964-3436.

A survey of Parade Magazine readers last March turned up the finding that leaf-blowers were the third most unpopular invention of the 20th Century. (High heels were most detested; “they hurt my feet. . . and make me dread dressy occasions,” said one reader.)
As for leaf-blowers, said a South Carolina reader, “I hate, hate, hate leaf-blowers! Get a rake!”
That’s the way some Mt. Gretnans feel, too, according to notes we’ve received recently. One woman wrote to tell us that the whining, obnoxious noise of a neighbor’s leaf-blower forced her to retreat from her porch and close the windows of her unair-conditioned cottage on Aug. 8, one of the hottest days of the summer. When the noise finally stopped, she wrote, “then came the screeching sound of an electric saw.”
Year after year, in our talks with owners of homes and cottages, we find that what appeals to most people is Mt. Gretna’s quiet and serenity. In addition to the restful trees and hills, what gives Mt. Gretna its gentle allure is a thoughtful consideration for neighbors. People living in close proximity must have that. And generations of Mt. Gretnans have had it in abundance.
The Campmeeting, where the leaf-blowing noise erupted this week, sensibly established years ago what it calls Quiet Hours, “in the interest of preserving Mt. Gretna’s peacefulness and quiet beauty.” That means all unnecessary noise must be minimized throughout the year, with quiet maintained on Sundays and from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on all other days. From July 15 to Aug. 31, added rules go into effect. No high decibel power tools are allowed during that period. Quiet time also means that manual work such as framing and roofing is prohibited—although “moderate noise created by indoor work is acceptable,” and both painting and landscaping can be carried out. The rules also wisely allow for emergency repairs during designated quiet times with approval of the Campmeeting office.
Although Mt. Gretna borough has no noise ordinance, neighbors using good judgment usually shun leaf-blowers and other noise-producers during times that would interfere with the very qualities that attracted us all here in the first place. Borough building permits specify that no work may be done before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., or on holidays, says secretary Linda Bell.
Elsewhere in Mt. Gretna, noisemaking devices are clearly unwelcome. A few years ago, a reader wryly suggested that since we solved our vulture problem by resorting to hanging effigies in trees, maybe we could hang effigies of chainsaws, chippers and leaf blowers over the homes of offending noisemakers. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s not such a bad idea.

RAY LAMAR KINCH, 1926-2007
He was the gentlest of men, quietly building friends, loyalty and respect both here in Mt. Gretna and in Hershey, where he built his optometry practice. A past president of the Rotary Club of Hershey, he was also president of the Derry Township school board, a member of Hershey’s Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and president for many years of the Mt. Gretna Men’s Club.
He served in the Philippines during World War II, earning a commendation for bravery. Later, in 1951, he graduated from the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry and subsequently became chairman of the Pennsylvania Optometric Association. In addition to his wife of 57 years, Mary Ellen, he is survived by three children.
A summer resident, Ray enjoyed all that Mt. Gretna has to offer, pitching in to help with duties at the annual Men’s Club breakfast during the art show. It was there that he became famous for flipping pancakes with the dexterity of an acrobat, simultaneously telling jokes and entertaining hungry patrons as they waited in long lines for their breakfast. Ray Kinch: Never boastful, always fair, a neighbor whom others felt honored to count among their friends.

Kindest regards,
Roger Groce

P.S. Our continuing thanks to all who write, phone and e-mail news, questions and suggestions. Hearing from friends—including many we’ve never actually met—is part of the fun of writing a community newsletter. One such inquiry came to us late last night, from a reader in Washington, DC who discovered The Mt. Gretna Newsletter on the Internet ( We reprint it here, and our reply, to give you a flavor of the pleasures abounding in this hobby we share with readers here and around the world:
“Hello! I'd like to visit Mount Gretna this fall, probably sometime in October. Is there anything fun happening then? Thank you! Kind Regards, Ms. D. S. Washington, DC”
Our response, dispatched at 1:37 a.m. today, was as follows:
“Year-rounders consider October one of the best times of the year. But that's only if you like peaceful days -- ideal for painting, photography, reading or other contemplative pursuits. The lake is officially closed. So is the Jigger Shop, Playhouse and summer series of lectures, crafts, art shows and concerts. The town shrinks back to normal size (pop. 1,500), not the 17,000 that come here on the third weekend of August, when the outdoor art show is held, or even the first weekend in August, with many appreciative visitors wishing they could dwell in the homes and cottages they tour.
"Fun? Yes, if you like hiking the trails, walking along quiet streets and spending warm fall evenings out on the porch, talking with good friends and turning off the TV. But excitement? Nope, you won't find it here. And that's the charm.”

Our thanks to the many folks who regularly forward this bulletin to friends and neighbors lacking access to a computer. Some, living halfway across the country, mail it back to friends living in Mt. Gretna. Part of the delightfully wacky world we live in. What fun!