The Mt. Gretna Newsletter
Mt. Gretna, Pa. . . . “Not a place, but a spirit.”
No. 85 August 11, 2008
When it comes to what counts. . .
"Hold hands and stick together. . . " That wise counsel, conveyed in a line from "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" at the Playhouse this summer, continued to reverberate across town last month . . . long after the play was over.
For the third time in the past year, a new interconnecting network of pipes, valves and meters which planners had set up to assure emergency water for three Mt. Gretna neighborhoods again came in handy.
Created a few years ago following the sudden collapse of a main well serving some 70 homes in Mt. Gretna Heights, the connection now provides an emergency link to the Heights and Campmeeting from a 260,000-gallon reservoir that also serves the Chautauqua.
It is a system that clearly works.
Last month, on a routine daily inspection, Bill Care discovered that demands on the Heights' well, which normally pumps 17,000 gallons a day, had suddenly surged to a rate of 50,000-gallons-a-day.
Crews quickly shut down the Heights' well and its 26,000-gallon reservoir and began tracing the problem.
Using the newly installed interconnection, they kept water flowing to every home in the Heights without interruption. Over the next several days, specialists traced the source of what Heights president Max Hunsicker described as a "catastrophic" leak.
In fact, they discovered several leaks.
One was in a service line leading to a private residence. Others included a small hole in the reservoir liner, a leaking fire hydrant, and a crack in the reservoir's main outflow pipe.
Using a meter built into the interconnect, they also discovered that when all the leaks were plugged, the Heights requires only about 7,500 to 11,000 gallons a day--not the nearly 17,000 gallons they had been averaging over more than 20 years.
Everything's fixed now, and Max says infrastructure repairs made in recent years now put the Heights' total water system in good shape. But the experience was a fresh reminder of the merits of community-wide cooperation. In other words, in a small town, there's a lot to be said for holding hands and sticking together.
One of the biggest advantages, says borough manager Bill Care, is the interconnect provides a backup not just for occasional pipeline breaks like this one or for sustained power outages, but also for fires.
If a fire breaks out in the Heights or Campmeeting, a fire engine's sudden 500-gallon-per-minute demand would trigger an automatic valve that opens immediate access to the full reserve capacity of the Mt. Gretna Authority's entire system.
As for long-term power outages, such as the one that darkened much of Mt. Gretna for three days last December, the system has another plus.
Thanks to art show proceeds plus contributions from Campmeeting, Heights and Chautauqua residents, an emergency generator at the authority's main well can assure water for all three communities even if power failures last several days.
So, when it comes to what we really need to know, it doesn't take a degree from the Wharton Business School. "It pays to work together," says Bill. "Especially when it comes to water."
In other news. . .
● The Route 117 resurfacing project . . . should wind up this week. After the art show, only touch-up work along side streets and a few details involving "shoulder backups" will remain.
"It's been a pleasure working in Mt. Gretna," says Burkholder Paving's Dave Powers.
Biggest problem: The 230 percent increased cost of asphalt cement. Since January, prices have jumped from $360 to $834 a ton.
"Just imagine what does to contractors, PennDOT and consumers," says Dave, whose Ephrata-based firm does mostly private, residential jobs and only in the past couple of years has been doing public roads. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
● Gypsy moths: the battle isn't over. . . . "Based on what we saw this year, we'll definitely have another problem next year," says 18-year veteran John Condoluci of Bartlett's Tree Service. County forester Leigh Beamesderfer agrees.
Condoluci thinks neighborhoods ought to join together and contract for private aerial spraying rather than rely on the milder forms of insecticide that municipal sprayers use. "The natural insecticide they used this spring gives good control if everything goes right, but too many things can go wrong. That's what happened."
To protect trees around your home next year, Ms. Beamesderfer advises wrapping them in burlap by late April, then spraying on Eradicoat ©. "When the caterpillars come down during the heat of the day and crawl across it, they'll be dead before they reach the end of the burlap," she says.
Surefire anti-aging formula?
Finishing her second season as Heritage Festival director, Pat Allwein, at 58, isn't about to head for the hammock.
After a festival that this year attracted over 700 people, Pat's getting ready for yet another triathlon, one of about a dozen she runs each year.
Why does she run? "A few years ago, somebody gave me a book, “Body for Life.” I read it, and stated running. I don't want to get old," she says.
Pat's raced in 68 competitions so far (including Mt. Gretna's triathlon). Husband Mike is also a marathon runner. They often combine camping vacations with race events.
But, in case she gets bored, there's always that winter job: Delivering fuel oil to her customers.
Back to the Heritage Festival: The concerts are free, yet patrons probably don't realize their freewill donations usually fall about $1,000 short of expenses. But Pat isn't worried. "Thank goodness for the Arts Council's contribution," she says.
More news. . .
● Mt. Gretna firefighters formally open that new $300,000 wing at the fire hall to the public Sept. 6. The 11 a.m. ceremony includes an open house for the 2,300 sq. ft. addition, which houses a fast-attack fire engine, a rescue truck and an 1,800-gallon tanker.
The fire company's 21 volunteers will also dedicate their social hall to the late Arlo Shay, the Timber Hills developer who built the original fire hall.
● How they'll pay for it? Well, that pig roast Sept. 13 is a start. . . one of several events they hold this year as they launch a capital campaign and ask this community to give an extra measure of support.
Far-flung Mt. Gretnans living elsewhere who want to help protect the town's century-old wood cottages and buildings can mail their gifts: Mt. Gretna Fire Company, P. O. Box 177, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.
● "The season was wonderful, definitely better than I expected" says Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington, who'll soon wind up her first summer here. "We sold out of many things, and I got lots of ideas for next year. I'm looking forward to it."
She'll stay open a few Saturdays and Sundays after Labor Day. "So many people have asked," she says, "and some may want to pick up a few Christmas gifts."
15 Year-old Mt. Gretna organist Ryan Brunkhurst, probably only church choir director in America who's too young to drive himself to rehearsals, appears on the Web in a national press release from the United Methodist Church.
16 Years that the Carmitchell Sisters (Bobbi and Anne) have been attracting crowds to that straw bale arena at the Mt. Gretna art show.
"From the stage, I look out and see trees swaying, sun slanting through the branches and people eating their lunches," says Bobbi, who writes many of their songs.
"Everyone who’s there realizes it's a two-way street: Performers and audience --we're all playing a part. And in Mt. Gretna, the beauty of creation is everywhere."
They'll top off Saturday's entertainment lineup Aug. 16, 3:30 to 5 p.m.
16 Members in the Hershey Big Band that'll be here Aug. 23 for "Music Under the Stars" at Mt. Gretna Lake.
Renown for its power to spawn romance, the annual event is also attracting a wedding party this year -- not to mention all those folks who love Big Band standards, rock 'n roll, rhythm and blues and pop music.
Organizer Ceylon Leitzel, who stages the event annually to earn funds for Mt. Gretna's non-profits, says a few tickets are still left. Call 964-1829 or e-mail KBL555@Verizon.net.
25 Bright new banners hanging from lamp posts will enliven the art show. Vivid colors, some with faces, others in geometric shapes, even a few with moving parts. All created by a Pittsburgh banner designer. "One of our long-term exhibitors recommended him," says art show director Linda Bell. "When I saw what he could do for us, I was delighted."
500 Miles on a bike in 24 hours. That's Robin Smith's latest accomplishment.
In the process, Robin and a teammate in the non-stop race raised $300 for a one-year-old Lancaster girl diagnosed with brain tumors. "There are wonderful, caring people in the world,” she says. "One couple just stopped by and anonymously put $100 in our jar."
Familiar name? Yes, Robin's the same 46-year-old Chautauquan who this past June rode across America in seven days.
Making the most of a Mt. Gretna summer. . .
How to keep kids busy every minute?
Try Elizabeth Wein's version of the Mt. Gretna One-Day Marathon:
● Hike up to Governor Dick.
● Head for the playgrounds.
● Play in the creek.
● Take in a kid's play.
● Eat at the Jigger Shop.
● Go swimming the lake.
● Play miniature golf.
● Go for a carriage ride,
● Stop in at the Hideaway.
● Catch fireflies.
"At the end of the day, we were exhausted," says Elizabeth, a 43-year-old mother of two, author, pilot and Yale grad who's been coming here since she was an infant.
She now lives in Scotland and writes books for children. (Her latest, "The Lion Hunter," was edged out in a recent adult fiction and fantasy competition by J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.")
"I could rhapsodize about Mt. Gretna," says Elizabeth. "When I was a little girl growing up in England, my grandmother (Heights resident Betty Flocken) was coming to visit. She asked what she could bring. I said, 'Bring me Mt. Gretna.'"
Questions Readers Ask
 We own a cottage in the Campmeeting and plan to renovate the kitchen next spring. Can I get the list of contractors, paint colors, photos and drawings that the Historical Society recently presented?
<> The Society's latest bulletin, "Architectural Preservation Advisory," is available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Museum organizers plan to soon offer listings of contractors and suppliers familiar with designs and materials that help maintain the area's architectural integrity and traditions.
Chairman Earl Lennington heads a committee that includes two architects and four others knowedgable in the field. He also invites you to contact him directly at email@example.com.
 Our grandson loves the "red playground" in Mt. Gretna, called "red" because that was the color of the foot-powered merry-go-round he could spin on. Last Sunday, we discovered it was gone. Will it be replaced?
<> Jessica Kosoff says they had to remove that beloved merry-go-round because the ball bearings finally wore out. "We'll replace it with something new. I hope it's a new merry-go-round because that was the kids' favorite."
Bill Care says that's a good possibility, and they're hoping to do just that.
 We're faithful Mt. Gretna Newsletter readers, but I missed seeing news about the Mt. Gretna coffee mug this year. Can you tell me where to find one and what it looks like?
<> Now in its eighth year, the popular fire company fundraiser features Eleanor Sarabia's sketch of the Hall of Philosophy. ("Just how many towns can say they have a 'Hall of Philosophy'?" muses playwright Eton Churchill, who'll stage a play reading there this month. See below.)
You'll find the mugs on sale at Gretna Emporium, Collins Grocery in Colebrook, Gretna Computers and at the fire hall.
Along Route 117, an oasis of calm . . . at John and Nancy Mitchell's Le Cigale shop, now with a "lavender boutique."
It's an idea they spawned last spring in Provence with Mt. Gretna photographer Madelaine Gray and husband Rupert Bullard over an outdoor luncheon -- stone table, served from a barbecue pit built on a rock jutting out from the wall of a rustic French countryside home.
Over lunch, the idea of creating a botique devoted exclusively to lavender seemed compelling: Madelaine's gallery sparkles with photographs of lush lavender fields in France. Lavender designs dominate John's French Provencal tablecloths, placemats and napkins. And Mim Enck, the Mt. Gretna resident who is a world authority on the subject of tea, could, they felt sure, be counted upon to come up with a new lavender-inspired blend. Also, John knew of a farm near Gettysburg where they could get lavender soaps, essential oils and aromatherapy products.
Thus, Mt. Gretna's lavender boutique was born. Things like that often happen over roast lamb luncheons in Provence.
Nothing, says Madelaine, is more relaxing than spending a day taking photographs in fields filled with the fragrance of lavender. And lavender soaps, she adds, are the ultimate luxury.
So might they also ask “flower lady” Mary Hernley to grow lavender and sell it across the street? "It's an idea!" says John, surely the most exuberant entrepreneur in Mt. Gretna. "We don't expect to get rich," he says, rushing off to another home and garden show, "but we are going to have a lot of fun."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Notes from all over
● Buy Mt. Gretna tickets online? Yes, now you can do that. Music at Gretna is the first to offer the service--for performances at the Playhouse and Tabernacle, the annual house tour, special dinners and winter concerts on the campus of Elizabethtown College. Gretna Theater hopes to soon be offering online ticketing as well.
● Jeffrey Hurst turned up in the London Times last month, in an article about how the Aztecs sipped chocolate beverages 3,500 years ago. The Hershey Foods scientist (and Campmeeting president) analyzed scrapings from ancient pottery, using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. For Dr. Jeff: Just another day at the office.
● Growing up, Adam Harlan climbed trees in the Heights and played at the playground. Now 28 and an actor in New York, he's climbing in national competition for a role in AMC's top-rated "Mad Men" series.
The former Cedar Crest basketball player can use a little help from his friends. Adam plays a cigar-smoking Don Draper, ruminating over advertising's gauzy link to happiness in a clip that viewers can vote on. (To cast a ballot, enter "Adam Harlan" on Google. Then go to "AMC - Blogs - You Could Be on Mad Men - Draper by Adam Harlan." Then click the "Vote for This" button alongside his video entry.
"Acting was never an option for Adam, it's something he needs to do," says Lorraine Harlan. His mom should know. During the era of legendary Mt. Gretna director Charles Coghlan, she was an actress at the Playhouse.
● Art show co-founder Reed Dixon and Mt. Gretna artist Lou Schellenberg will be displaying their works in a show that opens Sept. 5 at Red Raven Art Co. in Lancaster's gallery row on North Prince Street.
Reed joins his father-in-law, artist Constantine Kermes, in a two-person show at the new Artists of Lititz gallery starting Oct. 10.
● Like to become a docent for the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society next year? Sign up now for classes in Mt. Gretna history this winter. Call 964-1105 and leave a message. Students in junior or senior high can become docents or help out at the museum or library.
● "Mt. Gretna is part of my heart," says Ali Perzel, an off-Broadway performer who is offering ballet, jazz, modern age and Hip-Hop dance classes at the Heights Community Center this month. "It's a magical, enchanting place, beautiful beyond words."
Ali says that dance "teaches you to express all that's inside and share it with others. It builds confidence, self-esteem, self-expression, frees your spirit and lets you soar."
When she's not at her family's Campmeeting cottage in the summer, she teaches at several Berks County studios and performing arts centers. For details on classes here: Call 610-621-7126 or e-mail Tinydancingfirefly@yahoo.com.
● Art show receipts will again this year help pay for communitywide projects.
"When it comes to hearing about new opportunities to give money for things benefiting many people throughout Mt. Gretna, I'm all ears," says show director Linda Bell. She encourages groups that benefit Mt. Gretnans to send proposals.
Over the years, show proceeds have helped pay for a lakeside fire hydrant, landscaping at the Heights entrance, repairs at the Tabernacle, ambulance and fire protection, free movies and book reviews, a generator for the area's biggest well, plus support for the Mt. Gretna Playhouse, Bible Festival, and Mt. Gretna's ongoing community-wide campaign to encourage turkey vultures to roost elsewhere.
● Her heart never left Mt. Gretna, even though Pat Wood Edris moved to Sun City, Az. 20 years ago. That's understandable. Pat took her first steps at the Tabernacle. Her late brother Bill belonged to Mt. Gretna's celebrated "stand gang" in the 1940s. And when the family owned a summer cottage along Yale Avenue, her father was Chautauqua's mayor. Now, she wonders if other Mt. Gretnans who've also moved to Arizona might like to connect through e-mail. Drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
● Blogs about Mt. Gretna show up on the Web nearly every day. This, by Hershey resident Debrak Donmoyer, is one of the most engaging we've seen.
● Take the artist out of Mt. Gretna? Yes, but you can't take Mt. Gretna out of the artist. Barb Fishman still shows up everywhere--at the tennis courts, Playhouse and pizza shop--even though she and Al moved to Alden Place (1010 Bradford Circle, Lebanon 17042). "I feel like I've never left," says Barb, whose Thursday morning watercolor classes continue at the Heights Community Building. Tel.: 228-8888.
● Winding up summer services at the Mt. Gretna Tabernacle Aug. 31, vocal group Wing and a Prayer offers a sing-a-long of old favorites at 9:45 followed by a 10 a.m. service, "Walking the Path."
Unplugged. . .
This month's tour of homes included a cottage utterly devoid of a television set.
"We've never had one here. On purpose," says Judy Johnson, who shares that cottage on Muhlenberg Avenue with her sisters. She says that Mt. Gretna should be "all about reading, and playing games and spending time with family."
Across town, at the cottage of Paul and Cheryl Enck, not only was there no TV for years, but also no telephone. Not even a cell phone.* "We liked it when friends who wanted to talk to us came by and sat on the porch, just like in the old days," says Paul, whose grandfather was a minister and Campmeeting co-founder.
Although Max Hunsicker says the only folks who don't talk on a phone these days are people who are hard of hearing, Mt. Gretnans cherishing serenity often go to extraordinary lengths to preserve it.
Yes, Verizon's tower is finally up. But some busy execuctives with cottages here still haven't told colleagues that their cell phone now works in Mt. Gretna. For them, nights and weekends remain blissfully quiet.
"People are rediscovering how much fun it is to be doing other things--enjoying the outdoors, sitting on porches, or maybe even going off the trapeze at the lake," says author Elizabeth Wein, who lives in Scotland and returns every summer to the Heights, where she grew up.
True, more Americans are playing computer games and chatting online. But what Mt. Gretnans seem to know deep in their bones is that severing daily doses of connectivity is healthy.
Eton Churchill, whose newest play exploring the differences in one's public and private personas will be read at the Hall of Philosophy Aug. 28,** thinks people are spending too much time with computers. "I don't think that's healthy," he says.
At Gretna Emporium, Stacey Pennington has been selling family games by the dozens this summer. "People are gradually coming to understand that we need to turn off all the electronics and spend time together," she says. "A great way to do that is to play games."
Stacey first detected the trend after schools began "Turn Off the TV Week" campaigns a few years ago. "I think it's the parents' job to just pick a night or weekend and turn everything off after dinner and play games."
She advises letting a different child pick a game each week. "Some people don't think you can play games with a three-year-old," says Stacey. "But there are LOTS of games you can play with a three-year-old. It gives them a sense of belonging. They learn life skills. And they have fun doing it."
Campmeeting resident Elaine Baum, who, though she grew up in an age of TV, says her strongest childhood memories are of sitting out in her grandmother's yard with everyone on the lawn talking to one another as they shelled peas.
"Today's teenagers might see that as sheer torture," she says. "I don't remember what we talked about. But it was so soothing--the breeze and the constant whir of cicadas and crickets in the evening. Maybe we all ought to buy a bushel of unshelled peas at the farmers' market and invite friends over to shell them, talk and enjoy the sounds of nature."
Julia Bucher, who introduced a board games night at the Hall of Philosophy this summer, says they're a "throwback" to the past. "I remember those rainy summer afternoons in the Campmeeting, playing games on my great-aunt's front porch," she says.
Julia's not sure if, amid all the electronic alternatives, board games are truly a growing trend. But she is sure of one thing: "Children love playing games with adults. It's a guaranteed fun experience."
Even if unplugging isn't a galloping national trend, it's one that seems to fit Mt. Gretna--where rocking chairs trump Lay-Z-Boys.
Paul Enck says that when they return from a weekend at their Mt. Gretna cottage, "it's like a desert. In Camp Hill, everybody's inside. Nobody comes out. All the homes are air-conditioned. You don't see anybody.
"Here," he says, "everybody's walking around. They're living on their porches. They're talking. Church is outdoors. The theater's outdoors. It's wonderful."
* Only recently did Paul succumb to technology. After years of feeding quarters into the increasingly lonely pay phone along Route 117, he bought Cheryl a cell phone for Christmas. They now use it here on weekends. But that officially makes their 408 Pennsylvania Ave. cottage the last one in Mt. Gretna to finally get a telephone.
** Mt. Gretnans will also have a chance to disconnect from computers and phones Aug. 26, when author Maureen Grape reads from her work-in-progress, "A Long Journey to America," also at the Hall of Philosophy.
If you found value in this newsletter, we cordially invite you to forward it to others.
To change your email address: Drop me a note (email@example.com) and include both your OLD and NEW address.
The fine print: This newsletter has utterly no purpose other than informing, entertaining and occasionally amusing an aging author and his genial readers. It has no commercial or political aims and does not accept advertising. It is purely a pastime for a retired old guy looking for something to do and keep him out of the kitchen.
You are welcome to contact me. I love hearing from readers, but my in-box is now running over with forwarded mail. Please help me recover from this dilemma and send only e-mail that you write yourself.
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com