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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
No. 75 September 7, 2007


SUDDEN SILENCE

Probably it is buried somewhere in a mathematical formula having to do with mass and velocity. But it does seem that the greater the number of events sweeping through Mt. Gretna’s march from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the more sudden seems the stop that ultimately comes in September—usually with an abruptness that is almost jarring.
Gone are the crowds, the sounds of lakeside laughter, the corn roasts and pleasures of picnics. Gone, too, are gently startled looks on the faces of people making their first visits to Mt. Gretna—and discovering, almost transformed, a mystical aura that generations have known and cherished.
After opening with the bang of a starting gun across Lake Conewago, launching 600 triathlon competitors into action, the season ended quietly—amid sounds of Haydn as the Audubon Quartet closed Music at Gretna’s 32d consecutive summer.
But even as the season ended, gentle echoes remained—etched into a tapestry linking the Summer of 2007 to more than a hundred others, woven into the fabric of a thousand memories.
And what a summer it has been. Everything from Broadway shows nightly in the Playhouse to a stunning former Broadway star at the Tabernacle. From one of the world’s leading violinists to a 200-voice choir, a 16-harp orchestra, and a British Brass Band appearing on alternating weeks—sometimes even simultaneously—thrusting into our midst a dozen delightful dilemmas: Fiddler on the Roof? A Jack Bitner lecture? Mack the Knife? One of Juilliard’s best in an organ recital? An exploration of Amish forgiveness? A night at the movies with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey? In a Mt. Gretna summer, the problem is never whether there’s anything to do. It is always a problem of which to choose.
In truth, on most warm nights, Mt. Gretnans—those inclined to abandon their front porch rockers and conversations with friends—were forced to pick from multiple options, all good. But with few of the “play it again” opportunities available to those who dwell in the land of TiVos, DVDs or instant replays. Enveloped by Mt. Gretna’s 19th century tempo, one makes a choice and is done with it—more often than not finding contentment largely unknown to many moderns, perhaps even to most.
“Mt. Gretna is an increasingly attractive place,” a Harrisburg realtor said to us recently, and the reasons are not hard to divine. Our brimming summer schedule surely is one. Natural beauty and enriching cultural opportunities are others. But we’re willing to bet that, for those who remain, topping them all is the sudden silence that comes in September.

WITH GIFT SHOP GONE, BUILDING’S NEXT ROLE REMAINS UNCERTAIN

“Remember When” gift shop closed for good on Labor Day, most of its eclectic collection of antiques, curios and keepsakes gone. Still left, however, are 15 years of warm and embracing memories for owners Joe and Reenie Macsisak, now making plans for an active retirement. It’s one that includes travel and (soon) a move across town to the apartments at Timber Hills.
What will become of the building that once housed the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and later served as an art gallery as well as a gift and antique shop? No one yet knows. The lease doesn’t officially expire until Dec. 31.
Chautauqua officials say they’ve received four inquiries and two proposals from prospective shop operators so far, but active negotiations haven’t yet begun. “Whether the building will be leased for commercial purposes or retained for a different kind of community use is still open,” says Stinson Stroup, who directs Chautauqua’s real estate committee. “It may depend on the nature and value of the alternatives on the table at the time that a decision has to be made.” Meanwhile, inquiries are being accepted by the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, 964-3270, LBell83151@comcast.net

STUFF YOU WON’T READ ANYWHERE ELSE

[] “The Oaks at Gretna” along Mine Road is the latest real estate venture to blend “Gretna” into its name. “Mt. Gretna has always been a very desirable area, and more people are becoming aware of it,” says Coldwell Banker’s Tom Gates, handling sales of the first four homes expected to go up at the heavily wooded site. Gates says Manheim cabinetmaker and builder Gary Longenecker intends to erect custom homes (in the $300,000 to $400,000-range—with perhaps some that might veer upwards of $700,000) on two-and-a-half to four-acre lots.
How many other “Gretnas” exist locally? Mt. Gretna Heights, of course, which has been around since the 1920s. Gretna Glen, a campground just east of town. And Gretna Springs, a modular home park off Rte. 72 in Manheim. Gates says developer Longenecker chose the name himself.

[] Does it “always rain on art show weekend?” That’s what some folks were saying when Sunday showers again dampened this year’s turnout. Discouraged by the forecast, Sunday’s crowds were only a little more than half the number that turned out for Saturday’s opening, reducing this year’s totals to 13,790—down about 15% from last year. Gate receipts totaled $86,112.
But is rain a virtual art show certainty? No indeed, although days when it rains are the ones we’re most likely to remember (like times the phone rings when one is in the bathtub). Since 1992, however, rain or drizzle has fallen on exactly nine of the 32 art show Saturdays and Sundays. Heaviest downpours were in 2003, when over two inches of rain washed out the entire weekend, dropping revenues to $63,023. But, statistically speaking, when it comes to art show weekend, there’s a 72% chance the sun’s going to shine.

[] Show coordinator Linda Bell says comments from this year’s patrons, exhibitors and food service vendors (most simply amazed to have running hot water at their outdoor stands) were especially gratifying. She also had high praise for the 250 or so volunteers “who get together each year and pull off what is really a national event.” Most, of course, are Mt. Gretnans, but they include a few non-residents as well—such as Al and Sue Pera, who moved from here a few years ago to run Camp Hill’s Cornerstone Coffeehouse, but clearly left their hearts behind.

[] Looking for that perfect Mt. Gretna Christmas gift? Photographer and artist Glenn Acker offers a framed Mt. Gretna, PA “five-cent postage stamp” depicting a huge black turkey vulture set against a dazzling red background. Swirling overhead are a dozen fellow buzzards.
It’s become a favorite of Glenn, who first photographed the creature six years ago and thinks it ought to be elevated to “state bird of Mt. Gretna status,” or some other fitting honor—even though he, too, joins in the ongoing battle to encourage the stubborn visitors to choose roosts elsewhere. View a sample print on display at Le Sorelle Café, or ask Glenn (964-1950) to send you a preview by e-mail: gacker@paonline.com

[] Brown Avenue is next in line to get streetlights like the ones installed last year along Muhlenberg Avenue. The lamps use energy-saving bulbs, emitting a soft yellow glow reminiscent of lamplights from an earlier era. It’s part of a road improvement project soon to begin, bringing new water and storm drainage lines, plus sandstone curbing.

[] Bit by bit, it’s growing. Every month, new names appear on the website devoted exclusively to artists who live, work or trace their inspirations to Mt. Gretna. The aim, of course, is to assemble in one place everything one needs to know to pick up a piece of Mt. Gretna-inspired artwork. Another goal: have as many artists as possible listed in time for Christmas.
Take a look at the lineup: http://www.mtgretna.com/artscouncil/LocalArtist.html If you’re an artist, or know someone who’s not listed but should be, drop a note to Arts Council coordinator Jess Kosoff ( edandjess@verizon.net). She’ll see to it that your name, phone number, e-mail address, website listing and photos of your work appear at this popular and growing website.

FOODS OUR FIREFIGHTERS MADE FAMOUS

When it comes to food, those Mt. Gretna firefighters know what their neighbors like. That’s why folks here start marking their calendars for three important dates coming up this month, next month and in November.
Coming up first, on Sept. 15, is that perennial favorite, Chef Becky Briody’s fire company pig roast, a fundraiser that everybody who’s in town tries not to miss. Slow-cooked over several hours, the succulent treat is one everybody looks forward to—and not just because of the food.
It’s a time to catch up on the news with friends, enjoy a late afternoon or early evening by the fire, and treat yourself to mouth-watering pork that has few peers. The fun starts at 4 p.m. and continues until around 10 o’clock, all for a $15 donation.
Next on the schedule is your one remaining chance this year to sample Alice McKeone’s legendary ham and bean soup—at the fall block shoot Oct. 6 (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Raffles throughout the day mean you’re likely to walk away with more than the taste treat first developed more than a century ago by Alice’s grandmother. There are prizes galore and the chance to greet folks you’ve been wanting to meet. Plus hot dogs with free sauer kraut. It just doesn’t get any better.
Finally, topping it all November 10 is the annual soup cookoff—an event now in its fourth year that becomes more popular every year. Patrons come hungry but never leave that way. Even though the soup is suitably dispensed in tiny containers so everyone can sample everything. But there are so many varieties—all from chefs who’ve honed their recipes to perfection—for a $10 donation, Noon to 2 p.m.

COGHLAN HONOREES TRACE TIES TO THEATER’S BEST-KNOWN DIRECTOR

Gretna Theater’s 2007 Coghlan Award Winners Steve and Anita Winkler were first introduced to Mt. Gretna by Margaret Coglan, whose husband directed the theater from 1945 to 1970. They’ve worked at the concession stand, helped organize fundraising fashion shows, and been active participants in annual galas like the one where they themselves will be honored Oct. 13 at the Hershey Hotel.
Both are now retired from business careers but remain committed to community service—in Mt. Gretna and elsewhere. “It is fate that we are getting this award,” says Anita, who, like Steve, is a New York City native. “Margaret first introduced us to Dr. Bronstein,” a man who has devoted much of his life to Gretna Theater as well.
The annual auction and gala is traditionally a theater season highlight. “Tradition,” in fact, is this year’s theme. The gala will feature a champagne reception, gourmet dinner, and live and silent auctions for items that include vacation packages, designer jewelry and artwork by local and nationally known artists. Ticket information: 964-3627.

STUFF YOU WILL READ ELSEWHERE, BUT GOOD TO KNOW ANYWAY

[] West Cornwall Township supervisors last month voted 3-0 in support of the Mt. Gretna fire company’s siren. Fire company president Keith Volker said firefighters might consider altering their policy if pager signals ever became reliable. But given Mt. Gretna’s terrain—which for years has challenged telecommunications engineers, making even cell phone signals from a new Mine Road tower sometimes spotty—that day may be a long way off. Meanwhile, most residents seemed to prefer the view one reader expressed: “When you hear a siren, it means somebody is getting the help they need.”

[] Gretna Music is inviting area residents to share thoughts of what they most appreciate about Gretna Music—its past, new initiatives and plans for next year’s music festival in August. Two “Let’s talk: A conversation with Gretna Music” sessions have already been held this month in Mt. Gretna. Another is coming up Oct. 3 at the home of Betty and Ted Long in Elizabethtown. If you’d like to share your ideas, give Gretna Music a call (361-1508), or e-mail Susan Wood (susanowood@comcast.net).

[] The Winterites kick off their 58th season with a noon luncheon at the Farmers Hope Inn Oct. 2.
Who are those Winterites? Guys and gals who live here year ‘round, of course. Since 1949 they’ve been gathering for monthly meetings (the first Tuesday of every month except January “because it always snows then,” says organizer Donna Kaplan.) Annual dues are $5; meetings are open to all who live nearby.
In addition to topics this season that include Peggy O’Neil’s recent China trip, Howard Applegate’s talk on “Fellow Immigrants,” and a watercolor demonstration by Mt. Gretna artist Barb Fishman, the group plans a potluck luncheon at noon in December and “A Taste of Passover” in April. Most sessions are at the fire hall, where they often sponsor bridge games. Sound like a fun way to chase winter’s doldrums? Call Donna: 964-2174.

[] LeSorelle Porch & Pantry Café is now back on its winter schedule, Fridays through Sundays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. The restaurant will also close temporarily Sept. 21-23. Check for current schedules, menus, special events and other details at http://www.porchandpantry.com/

[] That Sept. 15 trip to Second Mountain (near Ft. Indiantown Gap) to watch Monarch butterflies on their annual trek to Mexico is one of a half dozen events listed in the Fall 2007 Gov. Dick Park Newsletter. Others include a nature hike at the park Sept. 29, an introduction to orienteering Oct. 13 and an evening nature talk around the campfire—complete with hot chocolate and a glimpse of the surrounding countryside from Governor Dick Tower—Nov. 2. For a free e-mail subscription: governordick@hotmail.com, or see website: www.parkatgovernordick.org

[] Mt. Gretna Art Show co-founder Reed Dixon’s work (http://www.reeddixonart.com/) is among those featured in “Pennsylvania Arts Experience: A Sampling of Artists and Artisans” at Elizabethtown’s Lynden Gallery Sept. 14, 5 to 8 p.m. Details: www.lyndengallery.com or (717) 367-9236. (Reed was in Mt. Gretna Labor Day weekend, sharing a Timbers dinner with former Mt. Gretna artisan Michael Jones http://www.michaelsnowjones.com/, now in New Mexico.)

[] Jay George leads a discussion on where we humans fit in the natural world tomorrow, Sept. 8 at Gov. Dick Nature Center. His slide presentation, “The Nature of Things,” starts at 7 p.m.

[] Center Stage Opera director Kathryn Foster is “leaning toward” La Boheme or Il Trovatore for next season’s performance at Mt. Gretna. Performance dates and other details are being worked out. But if you just can’t wait until next year, you can catch Placido Domingo prodigy Alejandro Olmedo at CSO’s performances of Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana in Camp Hill Nov. 8-10. For details, see www.csopera.org or e-mail information@csopera.org.

[] Chautauqua resident Michelle Robinson says a tree-tending series she once attended “changed how I look at trees.” She invites fellow Mt. Gretnans to look into the program, Oct. 11, 18 and 25, at http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org/phlgreen/tree-training.html.

[] Mt. Gretna’s United Methodist Church rededicates its freshly refurbished sanctuary Sept. 9 at the 10 a.m. worship service. The following Sunday, Sept. 16, the church will hold its annual picnic, immediately following the 10 a.m. service at Gretna Glen Campgrounds.

[] The third annual Bridge of Hope car rally—with Mt. Gretna as the starting point for drivers in a UK-inspired competition that stresses teamwork and navigation skills rather than speed—shifts to a fall date this year. Coordinator Bob Owens says the Oct. 20 rally should help attract more entrants (about 80, he hopes) to an event that raises about $6,000 for single-parent homeless families. Last year's rally, held in June, attracted only 54 contestants.
Why Mt. Gretna? It's picturesque, easily accessible from the Turnpike (competitors come from throughout Pennsylvania), and Chautauqua's two-tiered parking lot makes it easier to send competitors out along two different routes, says Owens, who also sees Mt. Gretna's religious roots as apt for a faith-based fund-raiser. See http://www.bridgeofhopelebanon.org


QUESTIONS READERS ASK

<> I wonder if anyone might know (a.) whether my cottage (originally Lot 20, at 6 Muhlenberg Ave.) ever had a name and (b.) if anyone has a photo of the back of this cottage in its original state—before any additions. I simply can’t imagine what the roofline might have looked like. (Robert Coleman sold this cottage to John Groff. Later it was owned by Lewis Shimmel, who passed it to his daughter, Mary Shimmel Hershey. Subsequent owners were Ruth Brubaker and later Arnold Bowman, who passed it on to me. I will appreciate any help your readers may be able to offer. Natalie Smith, dicknat@comcast.net.

[] The Internet weaves a powerful and mysterious web, and The Mt. Gretna Newsletter attracts readers from all over the globe. With any luck, someone somewhere will know something about this cottage—and maybe even have an early photo. Be patient. The answer’s out there somewhere, just waiting to find a home.

ELEANOR LONG 1902-2007

Long-time resident Eleanor Long, whose Mt. Gretna memories we profiled in last month’s issue (See “Numbers,” Mt. Gretna Newsletter No. 74, Aug. 10, 2007), died Aug. 28 in Annville. Married to the late Dr. Abram M. Long, pastor of the former Fourth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, she was the mother of Mt. Gretna residents David M. Long and Janet E. Jermon, an aunt to Mt. Gretna summer resident Paul Enck, and also a grandmother and great-grandmother.

NUMBERS

4.0 Grade point average achieved by Timber Bridge wife, mom and rehabilitation counselor Jackie Gydosh, honored last month by former Health and Human Services secretary Donna Shalala at Drexel University’s graduation ceremonies. Jackie’s Behavioral and Addictions Counseling degree came through the Drexel program at Harrisburg Area Community College. “I never even had to make one trip to Drexel’s Philadelphia campus,” she says.
Next in sight: a possible Ph. D. program at Immaculata University. If she’s accepted, those studies will require her to travel to Immaculata’s Exton campus several times a week. “Ahh, progress,” says Jackie, who moved to Mt. Gretna seven years ago with her husband and three children. The allure? “Beautiful scenery, that old-time feeling and serenity—there’s nothing more refreshing than coming home to Mt. Gretna after a hectic day.”

7 Minutes—shaved off race times he posted a year ago in Vermont’s Green Mountain Stage Race this past Labor Day weekend. Boro chief Bill Care was the event’s second-oldest competitor, entering in the 50-and-over category. Accompanying Bill to the grueling four-day event were wife Kay, borough secretary Linda Bell, Brown Avenue resident Robin Smith and a cycling friend, Barb Ricci. Although the gals took their bikes, they didn’t compete. “Mostly,” says Linda, “we shopped and ate.”

42d Season winding up for Mt. Gretna’s flower lady, Mary Hernley. She’ll still be here on weekends at her familiar post along Rte. 117—at least until sometime in October, “the Lord willing,” says Mary, who regards flowers as “God’s thoughts put into color.”
Most of her earnings go to support missionaries around the world, and she says that sales this year have been good. “We’ve sold more gladiolas than I expected,” she says, but exact sales results won’t be known until she totals everything up at year-end and begins distributing funds among the many charities that have benefited from her work for more than four decades.
Mary and her husband Peter now sell flowers at two other locations each summer—at their farm in Manheim and at a roadside stand along Rte. 72—“but Mt. Gretna is clearly the best,” she says.

$120 Collected during the art show by Lehigh Avenue lemonade vendors Allegra, 11, and Allison, 9—granddaughters of Ned and Emily Wallace. They’ll use the money to help fund the high school education of a friend and neighbor in Swaziland, where their parents are missionaries. Sales were good, but didn’t top last year’s records—when one passerby left a $100 bill. “He didn’t even drink his lemonade,” said the girls, still marveling one year later.

Kindest regards,


Roger Groce

P.S. We won’t publish a Newsletter in October as we take a few weeks off. Meanwhile, we thank all who send their news, share their suggestions and answer our frequent—often enigmatic—questions. As well, we are indebted to those who pass this bulletin along to friends and neighbors who may not yet be familiar with Mt. Gretna or who lack links to the Internet. Also, please remember: thanks to the guys at Gretna Computing—Mt. Gretna Mayor Joe Shay and Fire Chief Bob Dowd—you can always find copies of this Newsletter online, at http://mtgretna.com/news.