Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter

"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
Newsletter Home
Join Our Mailing List
Email: The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
No. 76 November 15, 2007
Mid-November is a reassuring time in Mt. Gretna. While elsewhere in the world people are rocked by mega-issues such as global warming or global recession, Mt. Gretnans are simply putting their rockers away. Clearing front porches and preparing for winter is a principle concern in November, a time when not much happens and when most people here already know what's going to happen anyway.
What they can count on is that leaves which turned golden in October will become brown in November and finally release their grip. Waiting to scoop them up will be people like Scott Cooling, Joey Wise and newcomer Lindsay Kresge, the diminutive redhead who joined the boro crew in August and is proving she can handle any task that comes her way. Others in the leaf-collecting business at this time of year include the Campmeeting's venerable Merv Lentz and West Cornwall Township's George Dundore, a familiar figure in Mt. Gretna Heights. Across the highway—in areas that were "Mt. Gretna" seven years before the Chautauqua was founded—residents of Timber Hills, Conewago Hill and Timber Bridge find ways to dispose of leaves themselves.
And all Mt. Gretnans, regardless of where they reside, can count on the inevitable return of turkey vultures—birds that have been making their annual appearance here for at least the last quarter century. But their numbers are down these days—way down. That's because a dedicated corps of volunteers emerges every evening at dusk to shoo them away, part of a coordinated relocation campaign that's one of the most effective in the state. (If you'd like to join them, let us know. We'll pass your name on to coordinator Max Hunsicker, who can always use extra helping hands.)
What Mt. Gretnans won't count on seeing this year is another special deer hunt at Governor Dick Park. The deer population also is down (See "Numbers," this issue). That, at least, is what a study showed last April. But we'd advise motorists hereabouts to be wary nevertheless. It could just be our imagination, but we've seen more deer along Mt. Gretna roads than ever this year.
Among news topics that do stimulate talk nowadays are those looming tax increases. Boro residents may be facing a 23-percent hike in local taxes. Other municipalities are coping with similar budgetary woes, most traceable to an unexpected shortfall in earned income tax revenues.
At the request of Pennsylvania's Chautauqua, boro officials have begun moving ahead with paperwork that could someday establish an official historic district. Secretary Linda Bell says the idea would be to preserve the area's architectural heritage—not "turn Mt. Gretna into a Williamsburg" with such things as strict controls on paint colors, buildings uses or remodeling.
Other talked-about-topics include what will become of Mt. Gretna's former gift shop (officially, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle building). Nothing's definite yet, but Chautauqua officials have been encouraged by the interest prospective renters are showing. They hope to have an announcement soon and a new business there next spring.
Meanwhile, the Rte. 117 repaving project is back on track. PennDOT chose an Ephrata-based firm, Burkholder Paving Division of Martin Limestone Corp., to do the work. Burkholder's Dave Powers told us they hope to start in early to mid-February and finish by Sept. 4 next year. No repaving will take place in the boro between Memorial Day and Labor Day. So during the busiest days of summer, Burkholder's crews will be tackling portions of the roadway outside Mt. Gretna's "downtown." Dave, who often enjoys visiting Mt. Gretna, says he appreciates the area's natural beauty and our concern for preserving trees and wildlife. He pledges minimal disruption as the $2 million project proceeds along Rte. 117, from Colebrook to the Rte. 72 overpass near Cornwall.
What else occupies the time, thoughts and attentions of people in Mt. Gretna these days? Nothing startling. Nothing surprising. And nothing sufficiently stirring to make the news any place else on earth. That, of course, is exactly the way we like it.
This year's tree lighting and carol singing open house will take place on Saturday, Dec. 1. It's an event that's brought special pleasures to Peter Hewitt and organist Walter McAnney for the past 15 years. At precisely 5:30 p.m., the outdoor tree will light up at the tip of Cedarn Point (where Pinch Road, Rte. 117 and Princeton Avenue come together). Carols, conversations, and servings of hot mulled cider with finger food favorites will continue until 7:30 p.m. ("We've discovered," says Peter, "that guests sometimes have other parties to attend.")
On the program this year (besides carols with Walter and protégé Ryan Brunkhurst, Mt. Gretna's youngest organist) will be two guest singers: soprano Emily Drobnock, a school friend of Ryan, and Robert McCullough, Ryan's next door neighbor in Timber Hills.
Everyone's welcome, and reservations aren't required.
Even if you can't make it to the lighting ceremony, you'll nevertheless be able to enjoy the added holiday sparkle at Cedarn Point. "Many people have told us that they find the Christmas lights on the point to be a cheerful sight," says Peter. "For them, and for us, it means that Christmas is just around the corner."
[] Summer program planners are already busy, working on offerings that will top even last year's bountiful schedule. If you have a suggestion, they'd like to hear it. (Drop a note to Kathy Snavely,, or Jack Anderson,
Chautauqua president Peggy O'Neil reports that several new crafts classes are already set, and a field trip to Baltimore's aquarium is a possibility. "We know there's a lot on our schedule, and not everybody will be able to do everything," she says. "We just want to offer enough variety so there's something for everybody."
[] Joy Hild, a reader in Hampstead, Md., discovered the Mt. Gretna Newsletter on the Web a few weeks ago and quickly summoned up early memories and names that others may also remember: Nancy and Walter Myers, former caretakers in the Campmeeting; Eleanor Long, who recently passed away at the age of 102; and Lotta Lustnauer and her sister Ethel Ensor. "We used to sit on the porch of my parents' cottage and listen to services at the Tabernacle," says Joy, whose fondest Mt. Gretna memories still are those afternoons at the Jigger Shop. "I'm so glad I found the Website," she says. "What a nice way to bring back special memories of a special place."
[] Linda Bell—who drives snowplows, computes payrolls, and organizes things for half a dozen Mt. Gretna groups including the borough, the water authority and the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, and—oh, yes, also directs Mt. Gretna's art show with a skill rarely found among Fortune 500 CEOs—is an excellent rider. Nonetheless, she says that her horse "chucked me on the ground a few weeks ago."
Linda has been thrown before and isn't about to be discouraged. She knows exactly what's wrong: that darned 27-year-old mare, which she's owned for nearly 20 years, simply "has a couple of loose bolts in her head." Linda got right back on and continued the ride unfazed.
Amid duties here, frequent weekend cycling trips of 100 miles or more, and interior design courses at night in Lancaster, she's preparing for a trip abroad next September. She and a friend will travel the Irish countryside—on horseback.
[] This year's top award at the Nov. 10 soup cook-off went to a professional chef making his first appearance here as a contestant. Brad Bower traveled from Camp Hill to unveil his secret, Mushroom Hill, a runaway favorite in the balloting. Second-place honors went to the crab bisque prepared by Mt. Gretna's Elaine Baum, who has entered the contest in four of the past five years and has won more medals than anybody. Sharon Warfel of Lebanon's roasted carrot and ginger soup placed third. Former first-place winner Chris Koslosky of Lebanontook "most unusual" honors with a creation she calls "Jungle Soup." And Lititz resident Terri Conville won the "best presentation" award. The event attracted 16 contestants. Organizer Thatcher Bornman says it brought over $700 in proceeds to the fire company.
[] Gretna Theatre has a part-time opening for someone to handle administrative tasks in a new development and fund-raising staff position. The position will require two to two-and-a-half days per week and involves developing and refining donor lists, preparing special mailings to prospective donors, coordinating the work of board members and others in organizing new sources of commercial and institutional sponsors, preparing thank-you letters and similar activities. Submit inquiries to Larry Frenock, Producing Director, Gretna Theatre, P.O. Box 578, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Tel. 717-964-3322. E-mail:
18.3 The average number of deer per square mile in Governor Dick Park, according to studies conducted last spring. That's below the 21-deer-per-square-mile recommendation of Pennsylvania's Game Commission, so there'll be no special hunt in the park this year. Also showing up in the study, however, was one spot where the herd's numbers are unusually high—37 deer per square mile. That's a site next to a hunting club, the Sportsmen's Association and a residential area. Officials say deer are attracted there because they're being fed. They'll do more studies next year.
45 Percent of Mt. Gretna borough cottage-owners who live here full-time. That puts a burden on the budget, since only full-time residents pay earned income tax, which the borough depends on for half of its annual income. That, plus an unexpected shortfall in EIT revenues, will likely mean a 23 percent increase in taxes next year. Other Lebanon County municipalities face similar budget squeezes.
225 Trees planted this year around the Governor Dick Nature Center. Coordinator Janie Gockley says they're part of a long-term stewardship plan and all are native to the area: Dogwoods and redbuds to add springtime beauty, plus black cherry, oak and silver maples. Also some sugar maples that could be tapped for honest-to-goodness sugar mapling sometime in the future.
2,300 Square-foot addition now going up at the Mt. Gretna fire hall. The $265,000 project will add three new bays, providing more room for the firefighters' existing equipment, which includes a $170,000 fast attack engine purchased in 2003, a rescue truck and an 1,800-gallon tanker. The fire company now runs on the services of 21 volunteers who typically respond to an estimated 130 to 140 calls per year. Officials expect to finish construction sometime in February. See photos:
[] Santa arrives at the Mt. Gretna fire hall promptly at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 8. He'll be there for two hours, and all are welcome. Youngsters of all ages will find plenty of food, favors and hot chocolate. (Volunteer bakers: please bring your cookies in early that morning.)
[] If you're buying a fresh Christmas tree this year, there'll be plenty of places to dispose of it after the holidays, even though the tree disposal area at Governor Dick Park has now been permanently closed.
Campmeeting and Chautauqua residents can set their trees along the curb for pickup. Heights residents can take theirs to a special mulching area behind the West Cornwall Township building, 73 S. Zinns Mill Rd. until Feb. 1. Residents elsewhere in Mt. Gretna may drop off their trees at the Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority, 1610 Russell Road, north of Annville. The services are free, but officials ask everyone to please remove bags, lights, tinsel and other decorations which can clog grinding machines.
[] Mt. Gretna's Winterites have a potluck luncheon coming up at the fire hall Dec. 4. The holiday festivities begin at noon and all in the Mt. Gretna area are invited. The group meets on first Tuesday of the month (except January) October through April.
[] Gretna Music's season continues at Elizabethtown College's Leffler Performance Center this weekend with violinist Adele Anthony, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Coming next: Canadian Brass on Dec. 6.
(This week's concert is a "Bring a Friend for Bach and Save Night," offering 50 percent off the regular price of up to two tickets for friends if you present a pre-purchased ticket at the box office.) The popular music festival also offers gift certificates in any amount for all Gretna Music events, regardless of performance dates. Details: (717) 361-1508.
[] "The Oaks at Gretna," that new real estate development along Mine Road, is alive and well, even though the small signs that first announced it several months ago are now mostly gone. "We put them up mainly for the art show crowd," says Coldwell Banker's Tom Gates. Plans are to build perhaps four custom homes, with maybe a few more later. Gates expects them to be in the $300,000 to $400,000 range with $700,000 a possibility. He says nobody has yet signed up, but there is interest in the lots, which range from two-and-a-half to four acres. Gates says that in real estate, the "Gretna name" holds a certain cachet.
[] What is the Chautauqua salute? I have a book of plays copyrighted in 1911 and direct an after-school Drama Club at Riverview Elementary School in Marietta. We are doing a Christmas play from the book that calls for the Chautauqua Salute at the ending. It mentions a scarf or cloth, but I'm not sure how to teach the children to do it. Can you help?
<> We checked with Mt. Gretna historian Jack Bitner. To the best of his knowledge, the "Chautauqua salute" has never been done at Mt. Gretna.
According to a Chautauqua, N.Y. website (, however, the tradition of audiences silently waving a white handkerchief began in 1877 to substitute for applause for a performer who was deaf. The Chautauqua Salute came to stand for the highest tribute a Chautauqua audience could give. It is used sparingly today and given only at the invitation of the president of the institution or some other presiding officer.
Another version of the salute, The Drooping of the Lililes, is more solemn. Raising a white handkerchief aloft began as a memorial tribute for the late Lewis Miller at an opening night ceremony following his death. It has continued since then.
[] What are those green boxes we see along Pinch Road, at the entrance to Gov. Dick Park and then periodically all the way down to the Nature Center?
<> They're electrical transformers, which supply underground utility service to the Nature Center. "We had the option of continuing the overhead power lines from the monument to the building," says Ray Bender, a Gov. Dick Park board member. "But that would have meant cutting a 50-foot-right-of-way for the poles. It cost more money to go underground, but we thought it was worth it. The green boxes house Met Ed's transformers which are required every so many feet until they get to the Nature Center."
[] I understand that Mt. Gretna has increasing numbers of a plant that's sometimes called "Tree of Heaven" or "stinking sumac." Is it a problem, and if so, what can we do about it?
<> Horticulturalist and Mt. Gretna area resident Ginger Pryor, who serves on the county's extension bureau staff, says the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) has been a problem in Pennsylvania since the late 1800s. It has a strong offensive odor. "I can't tell you the extent the problem of Ailanthus in Mt. Gretna," she says, "but I have noticed them on some cleared areas including North Hills Drive, Laurelwood and on areas of Mine Rd.
"Ailanthus is an ecological threat because of its invasiveness. It usually grows in dense stands that displace native plants and produces chemicals that kill or prevent the growth of other plants.
"Elimination begins with diligence, because of its abundant seed production, high seed germination rate and vigorous vegetative reproduction. Targeting large female trees will help reduce spread by seed. Young seedlings may be pulled or dug up, preferably when soil is moist. Take care to remove the entire plant, including all roots and fragments as these will almost certainly re-grow," she says. Ginger may be reached at Lebanon's PSU Cooperative Extension, (717) 270-4391
ARTHUR F. RUDY (1914-2007)
He was, in every sense, a gentleman's gentleman. Unerringly polite, exactingly precise in both manner and speech, and uncommonly respectful of the rights and opinions of others. He also was fond—profoundly so—of Mt. Gretna.
Art Rudy, who died Sept. 14, 2007, was a summer resident with a year-round affection for his Mt. Gretna neighbors. The cottage he and wife Erma enjoyed on Muhlenberg Avenue reflected the man himself—always neat, suitably modest, always welcoming.
When he wasn't in Mt. Gretna, he was usually in Landisville—almost an institution there, in fact. He taught a Landisville Sunday school class for over 60 years. He spent 38 years with Armstrong—Armstrong Cork Company when he joined right out of college (Franklin and Marshall, then University of Pennsylvania, where he received a master's degree), and later Armstrong World Industries when he retired as manager of production and control of the company's advertising department.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son and daughter, five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and a brother.
Art Rudy: A good friend, a good neighbor, and a good example.
He arrived, fittingly enough, on Columbus Day, showing up at the cottage of Barney and Cindy Myer along Yale Avenue. Although he didn't exactly come with suitcase in hand, the visiting woodpecker nevertheless made clear his intention to stay for the winter.
By late afternoon, after laboring throughout the day on their cedar-siding, he had pecked "a perfectly round hole just above the garage door," says Cindy. "I kept scooping up acorns and throwing them at him, but he wouldn't give up." The next day, she found traces of yellow insulation below the newly formed hole—unmistakable signs that he was making the place comfortable.
Mounting a counteroffensive, Barney stood outside the garage while Cindy pounded on a dining room wall, opposite the spot where they suspected the visitor was outfitting his new apartment. "At first, he'd stick his little head through the hole, looking slightly annoyed," she says. "But he got bored with it all and soon didn't bother to peek out anymore."
Barney stepped up the campaign, positioning a fake owl right in front of the hole. But the bird never blinked. Later, he tried using one of those "yellowish-orange balloons with lots of eyes on it." That failed, too. The bird never even altered his flight path around what Barney had hoped would be a terror-evoking obstacle. Instead, Cindy swears she could see traces of a faint smile starting to form across that woodpecker's well-hammered beak.
Last week, after threatening to serve Woodpecker soup at the fire company's cook-off, Barney nailed a pie plate near the hole and declared victory. The bird, he announced, was gone: Not a peck. Not a pip. Not a peep.
Cindy, however, isn't so sure. She thinks the bird's still there, but he's now become a proper Mt. Gretna woodpecker—that is, quietly res-PECKt-able. Besides that, he's smart, says Cindy, sounding almost like a proud mom. "After all, it took Columbus how many months to discover the New World? He found it in a day."
Kindest regards,
Roger Groce
P.S. Our thanks to all who contribute to this newsletter, either with ideas for topics, suggestions and corrections, or answers to our frequent and often arcane questions. Thanks also to our proofreaders, several in number, who hastily drop whatever they're doing to scan our early drafts and search for errors lurking in the darndest places. And our continuing appreciation for the many readers who forward this newsletter to others around the world, extending our circulation far and wide to people who share a fondness for all things having to do with Mt. Gretna.
Remember, too: Thanks to the folks at Gretna Computing, whose technical wizardry and personal attentiveness never cease to amaze us, you can always find back issues on the Web at (That's handy when you accidentally hit "delete" before everyone in your household has had a chance to read the latest Mt Gretna Newsletter.)