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No. 97 August 1, 2009

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There's nothing like a porch
America re-discovers what Mt. Gretnans have known for a century. . .

Tom McMahan, who lives in Northern New Jersey but returns to the family cottage on Pennsylvania Avenue as often as he can, has been carrying a newspaper article in his briefcase for the past several weeks. Every now and then, he pulls it out to show it to colleagues in Manhattan, where he works.

"Here," he says, "this is what Mt.Gretna's all about."

True, the
syndicated article first appeared in Ohio and touches on the sudden popularity of front porches all across America. But Tom's instincts are spot-on.

Americans are discovering, or re-discovering, what Mt. Gretnans have known for over a
It's that time! century: In the summertime, when life is lived to its fullest, it is lived outdoors -- in the blissful, enveloping casualness of a front porch, preferably one fitted out with rocking chairs, a card table and a wicker sofa.

Several of the cottage owners on the Aug. 1
Mt.Gretna house tour affirm that fact. Stephanie Seldomridge, whose "Anchors Away" cottage is Tour Stop No. 4 in the Campmeeting, says the front porch was what sold her two years ago, even on a snowy day in January. "I could live on that front porch," she says.  

Gail Schmerfeld, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who discovered a few years ago that the top half of her Campmeeting cottage (Tour Stop No. 5) would have to be thoroughly remodeled, found a way to extend her bedroom over the front porch and add a second front porch on the upper level.

Across town, Timber Bridge resident Larry Phillips specified a front porch for his new home -- after he'd spent several years getting accustomed to the virtues of front porch living at his former cottage in the Chautauqua.

And people like Paul and Deborah Gibbs, who travel back and
Mt. Gretna porches become summertime dining rooms forth between York and Mt.Gretna on weekends, make their front porch here a summertime dining room for themselves and their family.

But are some folks neglecting this precious asset?

Betty Flocken, whose Mt. Gretna Heights home has been in her family for more than 80 years, thinks people aren't sitting out on their front porches the way they used to.

Maybe it's the lure of TV sets, now firmly anchored indoors by ensnarling cable connections. which make them less portable than in the good old rabbit ears days.

But Elizabeth Wein, one of Betty's granddaughters and the author of
five children's fantasies, knows how to enjoy that porch. It's a Author Elizabeth Wein and son on Gretna Heights home of her grandmotherfavorite spot for Elizabeth, who spent most of her summers growing up here, and also for her own children, including Mark (at left), who sometimes shares a favorite spot on the wicker sofa with his mother.

Betty Flocken's porch holds special charms for Elizabeth, who now lives in the central Scotland town of Perth and often writes in a small garden summer house just outside her back door. The shelter is her haven -- a source of solitude, inspiration and productivity, she says. "I get so much work done out there. I think it is because it feels like I am sitting on the porch in Mt.Gretna."

There's no doubt that front porches are becoming more popular.
Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington says she's having difficulty keeping in stock a new line of "Welcome to the Porch" furniture she added three weeks ago. Indeed, the National Association of Homebuilders says its survey a couple of years ago found that porches are definitely on their way back in American life. Porches "feed people's desire to belong," says the NAHB's Steve Melman.

Mt.Gretnans don't need surveys to know that, of course. They
It's that time!understand instinctively that porches -- along with board games, tree-shaded lanes and daily walks to the post office where they greet friends and neighbors -- are among the essential ingredients in a mystical formula that shapes community life and spirit in Mt. Gretna. 

Porches add a special zest to a place where nearly everybody knows your name, where plays and concerts abound in the summertime, and where Jigger Shop sundaes and a dip in the lake are never more than a few hundred yards away.
"Boy, I'll bet high blood pressure is completely unknown in a place like this," said a first-time visitor from Los Angeles recently. He was renting a cottage in the Campmeeting with friends and discovering, presumably for the first time, the joys of simply sitting on a porch, reading the Economist, and listening to birds in the morning. "I didn't read much of the magazine, but I felt more relaxed than I have in years," he said. 

Sharing his impressions with a local resident, the Californian then asked about Mt. Gretna's history, the people who live here and the perceptions that visitors usually carry away. The resident recalled Sally Struthers' reaction, after performing in a role at the Playhouse a few years ago.  As she was winding up a two-week run, the "All in the Family" star told her closing night audience, "When I get back to L.A., I'm gonna build me a porch."



In Other News

No, Mt.Gretna's post office is not among the 3,120 postal stations and branches throughout the U.S. being considered for possible
Mt. Gretna's stand alone post office stands out!shutdown. In fact, according to the U.S. Postal Service's Central Pennsylvania spokesman Ray Daiutolo,"There are currently no plans to close stand alone post offices."
As a "stand alone" post office,Mt.Gretna's probably ranks pretty well. Unlike others in neighboring communities, its revenues are said to more than cover its operating costs.
Yet concerns remain over the U.S. Postal Service's longer term future. Mail volume throughout the country dropped from 212 billion pieces in 2007 to 203 billion last year. Some estimates suggest that it will decline by another 20 to 23 billion pieces this year.

Among this weekend's top events: Mt. Gretna's annual house tour (
see homes and cottages open for viewing) Saturday, Aug. 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
That's followed by "The Illumination of the Cottages," echoing a tradition from Mt. Gretna's youth summer camp era. Beginning at 7 p.m. with a program at the
Historical Society, the Mt. Gretna Library's self-guided 8:30 p.m. walking tour then winds through the Campmeeting, where everyone is asked to light up their porches.
New Black Eagle Jazz Band appears at the Playhouse Saturday at 8 p.m., and at Sunday's 11 a.m. Jazz Worship Service.

Developers of the proposed water park, with 590 homes and a hotel near Miner's Village in Cornwall,
released their current plans online  last month. The proposal includes a map showing layouts of roads, homes and other structures on a 570-acre tract to be called "The Preserve at Historic Cornwall Village." Construction could begin within three years.

Mt.Gretna: The Movie.  "Some kind of movie set?" asked reporter Bill Bowden as he traversed the streets of Mt.Gretna last month. In a  York Daily Record
article, Bowden wrote, "The cottages are too close, the streets too narrow for two cars, sometimes even for one. . . and there's no sound of lawn mowers, car engines or kids playing." The Record's website includes a brief video and interview with Bill Care and Linda Bell." 

"Summer in the Slow Lane at Mt. Gretna," an article in the July-August issue of Pennsylvania Magazine, appears online, through courtesy of the publisher, at:, and


Facing Challenges, Gretna Music Launches its Season
"We will weather this," said
Gretna Music executive director Michael Murray. But he leaves no doubt that the 2009 season and next year's as well may be the toughest ever for this 34-year-old music series.
Advance ticket sales are down. "People are reining in their discretionary spending, and concerts fall in that category," he says.
"We're not panicking, but it's clear that we have to plug the funding gaps, especially when ripple effects of the '08 stock market crash hit endowment funds next year." One likely victim: the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. "Unless something unexpected happens," he says, Gretna Music will have to trim its offerings in 2010.
A season of challenge for 34 year-old series
"We've got our strategic plan in place and our costs under control," says Michael, now in his sixth year here. Reflecting sluggish conditions that have dampened the arts nationally, many artists cut their fees dramatically this spring. Others switched from guaranteed rates to profit-sharing arrangements. "So our up-front risk is down," he says.
Still, the challenge over the coming year will be to strengthen sources of supplemental funding, "stabilize what we have, perpetuate our mission and not get hung up over the number of concerts we're presenting over the short term," he says.
"I don't mind saying that we have to work hard to make this go. It doesn't happen by itself," says Michael. "We'll need the help of everyone who has a stake in Mt. Gretna as a center for the performing arts." 

Gretna Music will offer
23 concerts between now and Sept. 6. Top attractions are expected to be The New Black Eagles jazz band, making their 32nd appearance here this weekend; folk artist Eileen Ivers Aug. 18; classical pianist Garrick Ohlsson Aug. 19; a Saturday matinee Aug. 22 with the Duquesne Tamburitzans, followed that evening by pop and folk musician Leon Redbone; the Phil Giordano Jazz Orchestra Aug. 29; and folk artist Leo Kottke Sep. 3. The series concludes with the Audubon Quartet, which has appeared here every year since 1976.  


Think these are meticulous pen and ink sketches? Think again. They're photographs, done by Dave Adams an astronomer by training who is now an administrator at City University in New York. It's that time!He and his wife, the artist Mary Kopala, live in Bucks County and in Mt. Gretna. Seven years ago, they bought a CampmeePizza shop's business booms with a l-o-n-g menu of treatsting cottage as a weekend and summer retreat from their work in Manhattan, where Mary is a psychologist and CUNY professor.
The technique Dave uses is called High Dynamic Range photography, which works best on subjects with unusually bright and dark scenes. "I didn't invent HDR," says Dave, but he uses it to take several photographs of a scene, then combines those separate images into one using special digital software. With software adjustments, he can create photographs that either look "fairly traditional or take on a 'painterly' character."  He believes the HDR technique helps him capture what he describes as "the magical atmosphere of Mt. Gretna."


Mt. Gretna Art Show:
Success where Committee Meetings are Scarce

When 280 artists from 27 states unfurl their tents and talents before some 15,000 visitors expected to flock to the 35th annual Mt.Gretna outdoor art show this month, it will once again provide a satisfying glow for people who don't like committee meetings. Indeed, the Mt. Gretna show annually affirms the  manifest wisdom -- often lacking in modern life  -- of simply letting good people do their own thing.

Show organizer Linda Bell has an army of 250 volunteers to make sure the art show, with its roughly
Pizza shop's business booms with a l-o-n-g menu of treats$200,000 budget, runs smoothly. But she rarely calls a meeting of her 18 committee chairmen. In fact, she's had only three meetings so far this year and doesn't expect she'll need another.

"We have good people, and they're excellent at what they do," she says. "The last thing I want to do is micromanage." Segmented assignments are key to her efficient style. "People controlling parking don't need to know what the booth sitters will be doing," she says, "so why tie them all up in the same meeting?"

However well-managed, this year's show nevertheless is likely to be affected by the economy. But Linda's not especially worried. And Sunshine Artist magazine editor Cameron Meier says the recession may have reduced sales at the nation's outdoor art shows this year, but he doesn't think it has had much of an impact on attendance. Linda says, in fact, that many artists she's talked to are having a pretty good year so far.

And, in any event, she doesn't emphasize setting attendance records every year. "That's not the purpose of our show," she says. "Bigger is not necessarily better.  We're promoting the arts. We want to expose people to go
Not what you'll find at Wal-Martod art, to get them to appreciate that having a piece of original art is so much more important and enriching in their lives than buying a mass-produced copy of something from Wal-Mart."

Meier thinks outdoor shows still have a strong future. "But it takes a bit more work than it used to in order to succeed, both for the artist and the promoter. The industry has to work harder to show the public why it's important and rewarding to be able to purchase original art from the person who created it," he says.

Good turnouts, of course, do have an impact on the community. Gate receipts help fund art show contributions to the fire company as well as to projects throughout the c
Pizza shop's business booms with a l-o-n-g menu of treatsommunity -- in Mt. Gretna Heights, the Campmeeting and Mt. Gretna Borough. Art show funds also go to groups such as Gretna Music, Gretna Theater, the Cicada Festival, the Tabernacle Association, Heritage Festival and others. They also have helped pay for an emergency generator for the community-wide water system, a fire hydrant at the lake and vulture relocation efforts.

And show organizers are constantly on the lookout for new needs that will benefit everyone in Mt. Gretna. "If someone has a good idea for using art show proceeds, we're all ears," says Linda.
Typically, art show expenses eat up about $130,000 of the $200,000 that the show takes in -- not just from admission fees but also from food vendors and exhibiting artists. What's left helps pay for the following year's up-front expenses, including advertising, and also provides a cushion in case of emergencies. (At one Midwest art show a few years ago, for example, a tornado destroyed the show site and artists' deposits had to be refunded.)

Although the art show doesn't issue a formal financial report publicly, Linda invites anyone who is inter
Every year, Uncle Sam gives the show a boostested to stop by her office and examine the books. They're stacked up against the others she maintains in her role as secretary to Mt. Gretna Borough, the Pennsylvania Chautauqua and the Mt. Gretna Water Authority.

Do all those responsibilities add up to too many meetings? Not if Linda can help it. "I know that everybody hates meetings because we're all so busy we don't have time for them."

At her previous job with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, Linda says "we'd have meetings to decide when we were going to have a meeting. By the time you were done having meetings, you didn't have time to do your job."

Following her distinctive management style, those days are now over for Linda. With minimal meetings and letting people do their thing, she makes it all look easy. Washington, D.C., General Motors and most of the other Fortune 500s could probably learn a thing or two.



The 2009 Mt. Gretna Christmas ornament
is finally here, says Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington. This year's version: a hand-painted glass ball.
But the big seller this summer? Red-white-and-blue furniture and "Welcome to the Porch" furniture, which arrived three weeks ago. "We can't keep it in stock," says Stacey.

This summer's best entertainment bargain?
It could jus
Timbers Dinner Theatert be that $25 buffet and show combo at the Timbers Dinner Theater
After dinner, it's "Sing Happy," the Timbers' 2009 musical revue -- created by "A Chorus Line" choreographer Dave Thome, Universal Orlando Resorts veteran Sharon Bruce Miller and Timbers music director Andy Roberts.
The dinner show runs Tuesdays-Saturdays through Sept. 5, with matinees on Wednesdays and some Saturdays. For reservations, telephone 964-3601.

"Music Under the Stars" organizer Ceylon Leitzel says ticket sales for this sixth annual fundraiser are running ahead of last year. One group of 30 has already reserved tables, joining romantic couples who plan to relive their Mt. Gretna memories to sounds of the Hershey Big Band, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the lake Aug. 22.
Bring your own picnic basket and non-alcoholic beverages, suggests Ceylon. Light snacks and wine tasting from Twin Brook, a local winery, will also be available.
Over the past five years, proceeds from this annual event have benefited the Mt. Gretna fire company, Heritage Festival, the Campmeeting's Bible Festival, Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church, a choral group and Lawn Ambulance.
Advance tickets, $18 each with SASE to P.O. Box 202, Mt. Gretna, Pa. 17064. Tickets at the door: $20. For details: call 717-866-4274 or 964-1829; e-mail:

Louise Coyle, a Chautauqua resident who earlier this year petitioned Mt. Gretna's borough council for tighter restraints on ambient noise, has launched a forum "for talking about local concerns and joys." Readers can also contact her via e-mail



3 Finches spotted along Route 117  by Nancy Mitchell, just back from Watkins Glen, NY. where she and husband John again displayed their French Provencal "table art."
So how could she be sure they were finches? Easy. Nancy knows birds, ever since joining a Mt. Gretna Bird Club outing last winter. Then she added, a bit hesitantly, "I guess they were finches. They were yellow with little black wings. Maybe I'll ask Evelyn Koppel to be sure."
Evelyn and husband Sid Hostetter are the club's ornithological authorities, welcoming newcomers at Governor Dick Park every Friday morning at 9, when they often take short field trips. For details,email:

5 Programs in six days mark the Bible Festival's "core week" as August begins.  Starting with the New Black Eagles jazz worship service at the Playhouse Aug. 2, the series continues at the Tabernacle that evening with noted author Leonard Sweet, naturalist Jack Hubley Aug. 7 and a five-choir handbell festival Aug. 8. The series concludes with the Lancaster Brass Qunitet Aug. 23.

5  Ft. hoagie, one of about eight or nine that Damien Orea and his dad Elidio (right) make each year at Mt. Gretna's Pizzeria. Loaded with meats, cheeses and assorted vegetables, the ginormous (yes, Pizza shop's business booms with a l-o-n-g menu of treatsthat's officially a word nowadays) sandwich is perfect for hearty appetites at birthday and graduation parties. The $45 specialty feeds about 15, says waitress Rose Bair. Since there's no bag or box big enough, how do customers carry it home? "Usually, they come in a van," she says.
So how's business as the restaurant heads toward its third anniversary next month? Breakfasts are great, but luncheon and dinner orders are down a bit from their first-year highs, says Damien. Maybe it's the recession, maybe it's typical of restaurants after initial curiosity subsides.
But what's up is their enthusiasm. The best thing about running a business in Mt. Gretna? By far, says Damien, "It's the people. They're great They tell us that opening this place is one of the best things that ever happened here."  
Thinking of placing an order? Damien, Elidio and Rose are waiting for your call: 964-1853.

6 Weddings at the Tabernacle this year -- an all-time record, says Merv Lentz, who thinks the growing number of marriages in the 110-year-old auditorium may have something to do with its improved lighting and sound systems.
Maybe, but perhaps it's just that Mt.Gretna, like Gretna Green in Scotland, is simply becoming a more popular spot for marriages, spurring couples into matrimony. 
Typical may be Campmeeting resident, entrepreneur and Lebanon Valley College alum Brad Kleinfelter, who obviously doesn't hesitate once he makes up his mind. Brad popped the question to Allison Topper on July 4th. They're getting married this month, on Art Show Saturday.

90 People, maybe more, expected at Mt. Gretna's community picnic at the Hall of Philosophy Sept. 5. Everybody's invited -- from Timber Bridge to Stoberdale, the Heights and everywhere in between.
Call 964-1830 to tell them what covered dish you'll be bringing (salad, entrée or dessert).
Coordinator Barney Myer always prepares a three-pound meatloaf, his favorite. "Usually, there's only one crumb left," he says. 
But suppose everybody decides to bring dessert? "In six years, it's never happened," says Barney. "If it did, I guess we'd all just eat dessert. But somehow it always balances out."
Really? A covered dish picnic where everybody brings their favorites, with salads, desserts and entrees arriving in just the right proportions?
"Oh, once in a while somebody asks what they should bring," he says. "So I look at my list, call them back and tell 'em what we're short in."
So, if not Divine Intervention, maybe there is a little Barney intervention? "Well, maybe, but not much," he says. The affair starts at 4 p.m.; folks are usually eating by 4:30.

Return on investment in two Mt. Gretna coffee mugs, which recently sold for $70 each to round out collections that date to 2001. Originally priced at $8, the mugs are now $10 but still rank alongside cookbooks as the Mt. Gretna fire company's most popular fundraisers ever.
Gretna Emporium expects to sell 168 mugs this summer -- a record for a single location, says fire company volunteer Scott Zellers. Other spots where the 2009 edition can be found include Penn Realty, Gretna Computers, the Playhouse snack bar, the Hideaway, Collins Grocery and, of course, the fire hall.

Folks expected at Cornwall police department's National Night Out festival Aug. 4 -- with hamburgers and hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, pizza, Hershey's Kissmobile, Army Blackhawk and state police helicopters, Bobby Gerhart and Kyle Martel racecars, karate demonstrations and more. No wonder it's the biggest celebration of its type in Lebanon County.
"Last year's event was the biggest we've ever had," says chief Bruce Harris. What he likes best about the whole celebration? "It's a chance for neighbors in Mt. Gretna, Cornwall and West Cornwall Township to get together, meet one another and people from 50 local agencies who provide their services," he says. It starts at 5 p.m. along Alden Street between Route 419 and Burd Coleman Road.  


It was an affair all-too-brief. Doodle, Mt. Gretna's lonesome bachelor, had an evanescent fling with Dolly, wNow there are two. . . soon three, four & five?ho showed up -- seemingly out of nowhere last month -- then vanished as mysteriously as she had appeared.
But it was love at first sight. And an egg-- an honest-to-goodness egg -- materialized within days.
Just where she came from and where she went remains a mystery, now enshrined in Mt. Gretna's ever-growing store of legends. 
Some say she left with a group of boys -- carried off to a farm everybody hopes. Everybody, that is, except Doodle, who preferred her company around the pizza shop and under the steps leading up to Gretna Theater's headquarters, where he was building a nest.
Dolly's abrupt adieu so touched the hearts of Rose Bair's pizza shop bre
Rosie's Roost. . . ready for Dolly's Returnakfast patrons last week that they erected "Rosie's Roost," hoping that an upscale perch might lure her back. But so far, no luck. She hasn't returned.
During Dolly's time in town, however, Doodle had suddenly switched from crowing to cooing. That brought forth not only an egg but also a blissful respite to neighbors who, for the first time since March when Doodle himself arrived, found they could again sleep though the night with their windows open. But no more.
After Dolly's departure, starting around 3:15 a.m., the melancholy crowing resumed. The egg vanished. And a Mt. Gretna summer romance -- like dozens, maybe hundreds, before it -- dissolved into yet another bittersweet memory.

The year's best question so far, asked at Mt. Gretna's Information Center: Volunteer Connie Yeagley was at the Center along Carnegie Avenue when a gentleman approached recently. Looking a bit puzzled, he stopped, scratched his head and asked, "Is this the town?"
That ranks with two other all-time favorites: "Do people really live in these cottages?" And, "We were just out for a Sunday drive and thought we'd stop. What the hell is going on here?"

First Timbers Dinner Theater star Kay Mitchell (right), shopping at Mt. Gretna's French Country Market on a Saturday morning.
"Before I got the call, I'd never heard of Mt. Gretna. I cou
Pizza shop's business booms with a l-o-n-g menu of treatsldn't even find it on a map," she says. That was in 1976, when friends and Broadway choreographers Tom Miller and Sharon Bruce put together the Timbers' first show for the late John Briody. (Bart, his son, recalled last week that Kay is still the best singer ever to appear on the Timbers' stage.)
She's been coming back to Mt. Gretna ever since, "as often as I can" -- this summer for a five-week stay.
She returned last month to her native Mississippi, where she grew up on a cotton plantation. "I'm a bona fide Southern Belle who happens to love the Northeast," she says. Her career has taken her throughout the country, including five years in New York, where her  operatic career blossomed. Now Kay Arcuragi, she still gives vocal lessons, both in Madison, Miss. where she lives, and during her summer stays in Mt. Gretna, where she spends time with old friends including Joan Buck.


Gazelle Ware Kamp, who lived on Village Lane in Timber Hills during the last 12 years of her life, died last week at the age of 97. A former Winterite and the mother of artist Pearl Parsells, she had been a Realtor in Springfield, Pa. An enthusiastic bridge player who taught the game to many others in Mt. Gretna, Zelle, as she was known, took up painting later in life and was known as someone "who brought civility, manners and graciousness into the lives of all she touched." Friends recall that if a conversation turned to physical ailments, Zelle simply referred to it as "another organ recital."
Born on the same day that the Titanic sank, she was nevertheless unafraid of ocean travel. As a young girl in the 1930s, she sailed by freighter to the Mediterranean with her cousin, the well-known occasional Mt.Gretna visitor Garnett "Kiki" Beckman, now 102 and living in Phoenix, Ariz., the mother of Conewago Hill resident Laura Feather.
For years afterward, the cousins shared stories of their adventures, including rescue efforts after a photographers' plane crashed while attempting to follow the Queen Mary on its maiden voyage. As their freighter continued on to New York, "the ship's captain put a body in the freezer, and his crew donated clothes to the survivors. My mom still has the newspaper stories," says Laura.


Questions Readers Ask
[] I've noticed a beautiful, tall purple flower blooming along the roadsides and around the lake in Mt. Gretna. Does anybody know what it is?

Karrie Hontz does. She's a Penn State Master Gardener who divides her tim
Pizza shop's business booms with a l-o-n-g menu of treatse between Skippack, in Montgomery County, and Mt. Gretna, where she and husband Ron bought a Campmeeting cottage three years ago. 
"Please don't consider pulling one out and planting it in your garden," she says. "This plant, commonly called '
Purple Loosestrife,' is one of the most invasive exotic plant species in Pennsylvania.  It spreads rapidly via its prolific seed production. One plant can generate more than two million seeds in a season, spread by birds, wind and human transport."
Karrie says the plant invades wetlands, squeezes out native species and is hard to eradicate. It has now been given "the dubious distinction of a 'noxious weed' -- the 'worst of the worst' in horticultural terms." She advises readers to remove and destroy it wherever possible and to keep alert for other invasive plants that appear on Penn State's
Karrie has lots of horticultural tips and is happy to share them with anyone who asks. She's easy to spot. "Everyone knows us as 'the Collie people,' since we're out walking all the time," she says.