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Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter No. 89 December 1, 2008

Mt. Gretna E-Mail Newsletter

"A Bulletin For Folks Who Love Mount Gretna. . . Wherever They Happen to Live"
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(Note to our online readers: Color photos, hyperlinks to referenced articles and other features are available in the e-mailed



(Note to our online readers: Color photos, hyperlinks to referenced articles and other features are available in the e-mailed edition of this newsletter, distributed without charge. Our readers' email addresses are never shared with anyone, for any purpose. The Mt. Gretna Newsletter has no political or commercial aims; its only goal is to inform, entertain and occasionally amuse its readers and aging editor [who otherwise would probably be out in the kitchen, causing trouble].  For a copy, send your request to:


No. 89                                                                                                                        December 1, 2008

What happens in December. . .
Time was when December rolled in to Mt. Gretna and scarcely anybody noticed.
Pete Light, who grew up here during the Depression and still lives on Conewago Hill, remembers when the holiday season was muted: Nobody ever heard of a community Christmas tree decorated with electric light bulbs. In fact, the only lights were two street lamps -- one at the post office, the other near the tennis courts. Each served to illuminate the narrow cement highway and heralded such notable happenings as the occasional arrival of a Model A Ford along Route 117.
For Pete, now 85, such occurrences often marked the highlight of any given day in December, indeed sometimes in the entire month itself.

So it is not surprising that many people assume a Brigadoon-like slumber must overtake the town after Thanksgiving, especially those for whom Mt. Gretna is a collection of May-to-September memories.
Yet surprises aplenty await those who harbor such notions and venture into town this December.
From Timber Hills to the Heights, a holiday season of unaccustomed sights, sounds and treasures is about to unfurl, unlike anything ever seen here.
At Cedarn Point, the first glimpse of Christmas
It begins this week, on Saturday, Dec. 6, with the traditional lighting of the community Christmas tree -- an event to which everybody in town is invited. That gets underway at 5:30 p.m. at Cedarn Point, directly across from the pizza shop. Carols, cookies and organ music follow -- all part of an evening that, for the past 16 years or so, has taken on the distinction of Mt. Gretna's official start to Christmas.

(Dale Grundon photo)

Other events on a brimming holiday schedule:
Dec. 13  Santa arrives at the fire hall, from 11:30 a.m. until 2 o'clock, dispensing favors, soup, hot chocolate and, of course, cookies. Free. (Note to cookie-baking elves: Please bring your treats early Saturday morning, an hour or so before the festivities begin.)
(There's also a Christmas Scavenger Hike at Governor Dick Park's nature center the same day, starting at 12:30 p.m. Register [$2] at 964-3808 or by email.) 
Dec. 14  A day of community-wide celebrations, spreading holiday spirit across the town. It includes three open house events -- at the Historical Society, La Cigale and at the Mt. Gretna Inn:
[]         Beginning from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society, 206 Pennsylvania Ave., will be an open house with stories of Mt. Gretna Christmases past, scones, cookies and other refreshments, plus Santa Claus himself. 
            On display at the festively decorated historical society will be antique toys from the collection of Barney Myer, and Pat Quarato and Gretna Theater's Larry Frenock in Victorian costumes, joining Evelyn Koppel in welcoming visitors. Also, Mandy Pennypacker guiding youngsters through the fundamentals of creating decorative ornaments. 
[]         At La Cigale will be lavender-flavored cookies and tea, plus works by some of the area's best-known artists (including Shelby Applegate, Barb Fishman, Fred Swaar, Mary Kopala and photographer Madelaine Gray) -- to the accompaniment of Dale Dougherty and friends, performing Celtic acoustic music at John and Nancy Mitchell's emporium alongside Route 117.

[]         Starting at 4 p.m., all who wish to join a procession of carolers will assemble at Soldiers Field and then make their way through the Chautauqua and Campmeeting to the Mt. Gretna Inn. There'll be song sheets, sleigh bells and a wagon-drawn keyboard played by Gretna Music's Michael Murray and caroling led by Marla Pitt.  Awaiting everyone at the Inn will be refreshments that include warm cider and hot chocolate.
             Organizer Susan Wood says starting out in Timber Hills and winding through Mt. Gretna is just another way of emphasizing that this is a day for everyone in the whole community.  "Join the singers, bring flashlights and enjoy the fun," she says.
Dec. 18 Belsnickel Night at the Timbers, with Tom ("The name's Leviticus but you can call me LEE-why") Baum and Max Hunsicker, an Amish account of The Night before Christmas.
Unfamiliar with this Christmas classic? It's the one that begins,  . . "Four cows and four steers, harnessed somehow; and vere dragging behind them an old-fashioned plow. And there, chust behind it, sour as a pickle, Vas a fella ve knew had to be the Belsnickel."
Starting sometime after 7 p.m., by the fireside downstairs. (Reservations recommended.)
Dec. 24  Two candlelight services (at 7 and 11 p.m.) at Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church.
Dec. 31 A New Year's Eve party that allows everyone to celebrate close to home. The Timbers'  special holiday buffet starts at 7 p.m. with the music of jazz pianist Andy Roberts and continues with party band performers "Galbraith, Briody and Friends" until 1 .a.m. Reservations: 394-3601.  

What happens in December? A cavalcade of small town holiday events reminding us all of why it feels good to live amid the echoes of an earlier time.




 Sightings  SuperPumpkin
SuperPumpkin, dancing with super soup-maker Alice McKeone
Friday, October 31, 2008
At the Halloween Ball following the parade, and answering that favorite kids' question: "Hey, SuperPumpkin, do you have a girl friend?"
WHO is SuperPumpkin? Only Alice, with a twinkle in her eye, knows for sure.                                                             
(Dale Grundon photo)

Pizzeria owner Damien Orea

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Shortly after lunch, pausing to feed the fish in a stream behind his shop: another sign that Damien, who often goes out of his way to help all creatures great and small, has a heart even bigger than those giant pizzas and tasty breakfasts he serves every day, Tuesday-Sunday (Tel. 964-1853).
Why we go to the P.O.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Near-70 temperatures (less than 12 days before the season's first snow) brought Deborah Clemens to the post office in shorts and a Bluebird Café tee shirt from Nashville's renown venue for beginning jazz guitarists.
Gretna Theater's Renee Krizan, looking as if she'd just stepped from the pages of Vogue in an open lacework shawl, also stopped by on her way to jury duty.
Which reminded us, once again, that folks who don't go to the post office every day miss out on one of the best parts of living in Mt. Gretna
JAWS in LakeConewago
Sometime during the night of Saturday, November 8
Sharks in Lake ConewagoDark, ominous and menacing, they cropped up in the chilly waters of Lake Conewago last month.
Soon after their arrival, reports ricocheted around town: A Spielberg sequel in the works? Underwater demolition terrorists?  A Patriot News reporter surmised Max Hunsicker, progenitor of the pink flamingo phenomenon, had a hand in it. Not true, says Max.
A week or so later, the fins disappeared as mysteriously as they came. Most folks seemed content to let the legend grow, sort of like a Mt. Gretna version of the Loch Ness monster. After all, in a small town where not much happens in November, there's nothing like an unsolved mystery every hundred years or so to heighten the allure.
Super volunteer Evelyn Duncan, clowning around
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Near Orlando, Fla., where this 2002 Coghlan Award-winning volunteer puts on a clown suit to entertain at nursing homes, schools and other gatherings. Evelyn also recently added a prison ministry to her schedule. The former Timber Hills resident invites Mt. Gretnans to drop her a note and visit when they're in the area.
Sarah Ellis, picking up litter that others left behind
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Village Lane resident, who grew up in Tennessee, walking along Timber Road as the season's first flurries swirled on a blustery afternoon, doing what she's done for years. "Does anyone ever stop to say 'thanks'?" we asked. "Yes, and sometimes they even start carrying litter bags of their own," she said. "That's the best thank-you ever."
Mayor Shay, performing a wedding during the Big 10 Championship game 
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Mayor Joe, who's also vice-president of the fire company, officiated at the ceremony on Saturday after putting out a house fire on Thursday, fixing balky computers at his shop on Friday and handling assorted other emergencies during the rest of the week.
What happens if a siren sounds just as he's getting to the part about "Do you take this woman. .  .?" In nearly 50 weddings, it hasn't happened yet, says Joe. But, even during the ceremony, his pager is never far away
Former mayor and fire chief David Long, struggling to keep a secret
Monday, November 24, 2008
Kibitzing with other old timers at the post office, but saying not a word about turning 80 on Dec. 7. That, however, was before daughter Debby Erb began whispering that his Mr. Gretna pals, plus fellow members of the Lawn Ambulance crew, will positively delight in discovering yet another reason to needle their good friend on Pearl Harbor Day. 

Email your sightings of the interesting, the zany & the delightful to:


Audiences, in fact, liked the new Playhouse lineup

So how did split seasons work out at the Playhouse this summer, starting in June with plays and musicals then winding up in August with a month of classical music and jazz concerts?
Surprisingly well, say organizers.
To be sure, some grumbles accompanied the readjusted schedules, especially for many who'd grown accustomed over the past 30 years to chamber music concerts every Sunday night. Yet those seeking out premiere musical experiences soon showed a remarkable adaptability, says Gretna Music executive director Michael Murray: "One gentleman told me he was skeptical at first, but as August continued, he found he was enjoying the new concept and the more intense experience that it offered."
To be sure, paid attendance was down for both Gretna Theater and Gretna Music. But Michael and Gretna Theater colleague Larry Frenock attribute that to the economy, soaring gas prices and audience-grabbing television specials that included the Olympics and national political conventions.
As the season drew to a close, both groups reported that they had largely held their own -- a testament to imaginative programming, savvy management and focused fund-raising efforts that are getting special emphasis these days. Both groups felt that the split-season concept proved workable, minimizing operating costs by reducing the need for weekly stage set-ups and take-downs to accommodate shifts between theatrical performances and concerts.  
The Cicada Festival, unaffected by schedule changes and presenting its concerts at the usual time in early August, continued to fill the Playhouse, thanks to enthusiastic volunteers, $8 ticket prices and a blend of family fare that's proven popular over the past 14 years.
Gretna Theater expects to join in offering online ticketing sales in 2009. Gretna Music, which launched online ordering this year, says it simplified ticket processing for patrons, saved time and labor for staffers and may have helped spur advance sales for concerts and the annual house tour.
For Gretna Theater, the biggest challenge remains getting summer audiences accustomed to placing Mt. Gretna on their June itinerary. Next year, the theater will schedule six rather than five shows, with the musicals "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Hello, Dolly" slated for two-week runs. Four other shows will change every week, following a tradition first begun in the 1940s by legendary Mt. Gretna producer Charles Coghlan.


Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington's 8- and 5-year old sons pitched in to help restore Christmas after Grench-like thieves broke into a Lebanon Toys for Tots center last month, stealing presents intended for underprivileged youngsters. A Lebanon Daily News article reported that Conner and Cole Pennington organized a hot dog and bake sale outside their mother's Resource Island store in Cleona.  
The Mt. Gretna Arts Council's Summer Calendar, surely the most thumbed-through bulletin in town, always features fascinating cover artwork. The 2009 edition will carry Eva Bender's rendering of a favorite Campmeeting site, the Barnes sisters' cottage on Mills Avenue. It's not Eva's first calendar cover however. Her artwork was among the first calendar covers.
Where you'll find Mt.Gretnans this week? Helping out at the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail holiday gala Dec. 7 at the Woman's Club of Lebanon, 5 - 8 p.m. Artist Shelby Applegate joins fellow Mt. Gretnans Jeff Norton, a LVRT board member, and chef-on-the-go Becky Briody in the event whose proceeds support the trail.
The rail trail traverses Mt.Gretna with a Timber Road spur that attracts thousands of hikers, runners and bikers year 'round. Reservations: 270-1356.

Organic produce? Four Mt. Gretna families are hoping 11 others will join them in ordering 22 weeks of fresh food deliveries (May to September) from a Lancaster farm. Orders received by Dec. 31 earn a $50 discount, says Susan Wood. If 15 families sign up, the farm will make deliveries to Mt. Gretna.
What's to love about turkey vultures? An illuminating article in the current issue of Audubon Magazine tells why they're a key link in the food chain and how they're adapting to our changing landscapes. 


Presents you can buy without leaving town
Yes, you can still pick up Mt. Gretna fire company coffee mugs at Gretna Computers, the Hideaway and Collins Grocery. Gretna Theater has gift certificates on sale at the office. Gretna Music ticket packages are also available online.
Mt Gretna Postage Stamp
Then there's a smorgasbord of Mt. Gretna artists' works on display at Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry Café. What many people don't know: Affixed to the back of each painting in the gallery is an envelope pre-addressed to the artist. Purchase the artwork by simply dropping your payment in the mail.
One such item: Photographer Glen Acker's Mt. Gretna postage stamp, a tribute to what at this time of year is the most famous bird in town.
You'll find other artwork inspired by Mt. Gretna displayed online at the Arts Council's new website.
Also available: Gift certificates at area restaurants, table art at La Cigale, the latest CDs from Timbers' musical director Andy Roberts, Mt. Gretna calendars from Carol Snyder, or Yoga lessons from Pam Willeman.    


ELECTION DAY HONORS: Mt.Gretna voters, casting their ballots last month, found treats galore at their assigned voting booths.
Most bountiful display: Mt.Gretna borough's assortment of candies and cookies, fruits and pastries -- assembled by poll workers Jim and Shirley Corbett and Kathy and Jim Erdman.
Best-tasting angel food cake: Baked by Quentin volunteer Pat Whitman, one of a dozen treats lining the hall for workers and voters (including those from Mt.GretnaHeights and Campmeeting).
Most enterprising: Those imaginative bake sale ladies of Lawn, where people like Patsy Kline guided voters from Timber Hills, TimberBridge and Conewago Hill. After casting their ballots, voters exited past a tempting  array of cakes, pies and cookies that raised money for the Lawn firefighters and ambulance team.


BRINGING OUT THE BEST:  If "Mumbo Gumbo" and "Conewago Beet" sound strange, that's because you probably missed last month's gastronomical feast, the 6th annual Mt.Gretna soup cook-off.
Savoring 16 different soups along with Scott Galbraith's music, attendees contributed over $800, all of it going to the fire company. 
Top local winners were Pat (Big Chief) and Dan (Sioux Chef) Hottenstein of Timber Hills, first-year contestants taking third place honors with "New Mexican Green Chili Chicken." (If you'd like the recipe, drop an email request to Dan.)
Eleanor Sarabia and nephew Joey Mann won "Best Presentation" and "Most Unusual" awards for her lip-smacking "Conewago Beet" soup.
Other Mt. Gretnans in a tasty lineup that made picking "bests" nearly impossible were Gretna Theater's Renee Krizan, Cicada volunteer Laura Feather, summer resident Mimi Swayze and Campmeeting culinary wizard Elaine Baum (a five-time winner at this event).

This year's top honors went to Lancaster Countians Mike Heller and Donna Speckman's "Shrab Bisque" (a secret recipe which also took first place at Hershey's recent soup contest) and Annville resident Linda Argueda's "Five-Onion Soup" (with crispy shallots and fresh chives), which placed second.


FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE:  A grandmother's perspective on Mt. Gretna, after spending summers here at the Brown Avenue cottage of her aunt (Peggy Gebhardt), then moving to California and, years later, returning with her husband to the East Coast.
Now living in Havre de Grace, Md., Pam Campbell (whose cousin Martha Gebhardt owns the cottage today) hopes to visit Mt. Gretna more often: "It is a peaceful place to be," she writes.  


Questions Readers Ask
[] Ever since I found a discharged shotgun shell when walking my dog along the rail trail in back of Timber Hills, I've started wearing an orange hunter's vest. Is there a sign posted at the trailheads warning hikers and bikers that they're in areas next to state gamelands?
<> Rail-trail organizer John Wenger says Lebanon Valley Rail Trail rules prohibit the discharging of firearms from or across the rail-trail. "However, during hunting season, it's probably a good idea for anyone using the trail to wear orange due to the close proximity of state gamelands," he says.
As for posting a sign at the trailheads to warn hikers and bikers that they'll be close to hunters, John thought that was a good idea. In fact, shortly after receiving this question, he promptly asked the Pennsylvania Game Commission for help in posting placards at the trail entrances. The warning signs are now up. 


5   Number of homes that Chris and Emily England have bought in Mt. Gretna over the past dozen years. They took possession of their latest acquisition, the former Bitner home on Muhlenberg Avenue, just before Thanksgiving and expect to enjoy Christmas there with their four children.  
For Emily, it is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream. "She's been coming to Mt. Gretna each summer since she was five," says Chris. "As she would walk by the home with her mother and sister, she'd say, 'Someday I'm going to live there.'"
Although the Englands have previously lived on Yale, Harvard and Lebanon avenues and for a brief time on Timber Road, he expects that this move will be permanent. "Emily tells me they'll have to carry her out of this one in a box," says her husband, who operates a direct marketing business from home.
Chris says any modifications to the Muhlenberg Avenue structure will be "restorations rather than renovations," preserving both the exterior colors and period look of this 1903 landmark, which was the first home (as opposed to a cottage) built in Mt. Gretna. Major work will involve updating the kitchen and bathroom, "in a way that's in keeping with the period," and adding a wine cellar below. Chris says he'll use the large area in the attic as his home office.
Will the Englands continue to alternate between homes in Connecticut and Pennsylvania? "I don't think so," says Chris. "We'll be spending the vast majority of our time right here in Mt. Gretna. All our friends are here, and it's just too friendly to leave."
1,600  Trees estimated to have been killed in Governor Dick Park by gypsy moths, the park's board heard last month. They voted to remove the trees and use timbering revenues to help restore the forest.
Others, including members of the board's environmental education committee, believe that some trees which appear dead might survive or, in any case, would provide wildlife nutrients and habitats, the Harrisburg Patriot News reported. They also fear that timbering operations would open the forest to invasive species, a Lancaster Sunday News article noted.
A final decision on whether to timber 67 acres of the 1,105-acre park is up to the Clarence Shock Foundation board and Lebanon County's commissioners.