Honoring his father with the
first memorial contribution and kicking off the Mt. Gretna Fire
Company's campaign to pay for its newly expanded fire hall, Conewago Hill
resident Ed Phillips (inset, right) presents the first of five $1,000
contributions he's pledged over the next five years.
Ed's dad, Edwin Phillips of Beaver Falls, Pa., was himself a firefighter. "I
have great respect for the fire company," says the retired
Cornwall-Lebanon School District superintendent.
"My dad was a fireman for 28 years. He always had his boots right by the
bed. When the siren went off, it was 'into the boots, pull up the straps, get
in the car and go.' I know the anxiety that goes with being a fireman. He was
in a fire where a sheet of glass came down on him, splitting his helmet in
half. Without that helmet, he'd have been dead."
Accepting the gift, fire company president Joe Shay (inset, left)
acknowledged that they'll need similar memorial gifts from others in the
community to pay off construction and equipment-replacement debts approaching
Why build a bigger fire hall? As 20-year-old fire engines must be replaced,
the newer ones, built to national safety standards, don't fit inside the old
facility, says Joe. Moreover, Mt. Gretna's narrow streets and neighborhoods
where hydrants are limited or non-existent call for a variety of vehicles,
both large and small, with greater water pumping capacities.
Others wishing to join the fire company's Wall of Honor may initiate their
five-year annual pledges (in amounts of $500, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 or
$10,000) with donations to: Mt. Gretna Fire Company, P. O. Box 177, Mt.
Gretna, PA 17064. Tom Mayer has details (964-1987; e-mail email@example.com).
Cicada Festival's smash hit of 2009 will soon be available
as a CD, a "first" for the popular summer series. Phil Dirt and
the Dozers' combined performance of Beach Boys hits (with former "Beach
Boy" Chris Farmer and players from the Hershey Symphony Orchestra) will
re-emerge as a limited-edition CD in October.
Coordinator Ceylon Leiztel says he'll limit production to the actual number
of advance orders. To reserve a copy, see the order form at Cicada's website or send $20 to
Cicada Festival, P.O. Box 637, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064, where Dick and Natalie
Smith will be handling orders.
AFTER LENGTHY DELAY, AT&T FINALLY COMES TO TOWN
Dick Smith, on Muhlenberg Avenue, was first to
notice it. Tom Baum, visiting friends in Conewago Hill, blinked when the bars
on his AT&T cell phone suddenly lit up. Bill Gifford chimed in a
few days later, reporting that visitors to his Princeton Avenue cottage
could, for the first time, use their iPhones. And Rich Montgomery made his
startling discovery the next day at the Hideaway.
What happened? AT&T finally decided to climb aboard the Mine Road
cell tower owned by Verizon and already occupied by Sprint, augmenting the topography-challenged antenna along Route 72 that the company had
erected several years ago. By piggybacking onto the Verizon tower, AT&T's
coverage all across Mt. Gretna is now strong and destined to get stronger.
Company spokesman Adam Cormier says more improvements are on the way.
AT&T hopes to "roll out a new frequency across Pennsylvania"
that will push cellular signals further and penetrate deeper into buildings.
The company also will add network capacity to handle increased email and
texting traffic. First priority, says Mr. Cormier, will be larger cities, but
AT&T expects to have the entire state covered with such enhanced services
by the end of next year.
Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of numerous books and a popular Mt. Gretna lecturer over the
past two summers, continues to stir interest locally.
The first of several regional discussion groups based on his teachings will
gather at the Hall of Philosophy Sunday, Sept. 13, led by Millersville University chaplain Darrell Woomer.
Part of a covered dish supper, the event begins at 4:00 p.m. and reservations
are required. (Email Rev. Woomer, or call
Among Bishop Spong's recent works is The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts
of Hate to Discover the God of Love. The theologian describes
himself as "a believer who knows and loves the Bible deeply" but
also recognizes "that parts of it have been used to undergird prejudices
and to mask violence."
Rev. Woomer, also known locally as the former Lebanon Valley College chaplain
and "jazz reverend" at Mt. Gretna's annual Black Eagles jazz
worship service in the Playhouse, hopes to form Spong-inspired discussions in
Harrisburg, Lebanon and Lancaster counties.
Doodle?" asked Joyce and Roland Nissley as they made their
usual early morning stroll along Timber Road last week. "We haven't
heard him since the art show."
Minutes later, the answer was clear: Fluffing up his feathers and
crowing with the triumphant exultation of a king whose treasure has been
restored was Doodle, heralding the return of Dolly, the demure but
intoxicatingly mysterious hen that had disappeared in July.
There she was, back on Doodle's doorstep, with explanations neither given nor
asked for. And Doodle, as the "Hello, Dolly" melody goes, was
clearly glad "to have her back where she belongs."
CONGRESSMAN GETS IT
Our item last month about the postal service's plan to look at cutting out some 3,120 small post offices across the land brought a
response from local Congressman Tim Holden.
As we noted, Mt. Gretna's facility, a vibrant "stand-alone" post
office with revenues that more than offset its cost, is not among
those slated for closing. Nor, if the congressman has anything to say about
it, is it likely to be.
Here's his statement:
"In cities and small communities across the country, post offices
play an integral part of local communities. The Mt. Gretna Post Office
performs a necessary and important role for the members of this
community. More than that, it is a mainstay in the town, a job
provider, and a place where folks can cross paths on a daily basis and enforce
the social ties within Mt. Gretna.
I am grateful the United States Postal Service has once again decided this
post office is worth maintaining, and I look forward to its permanence in the
ALSO IN THE NEWS THIS MONTH:
Every small town in America has its "musts" -- de
rigueur happenings that compel gatherings of neighbors, babies,
politicians, and others who enjoy good food and good friends.
In Mt. Gretna, such an occasion crops up again this month
when Chef-on-the-Go Becky Briody
prepares a 240-lb. pig, ladened with Lawry's seasoned salt (and, for added
flavor, a can of beer perched smack in the middle of a giant roaster
alongside the guest of honor).
Four or five hours after lighting the fire, Becky (inset, above)
begins sorting the succulent delights that will satisfy Mt. Gretna's
multitudes and help raise much-needed funds for the fire company.
Growing in popularity every year, the annual pig roast is
now as much a part of Mt. Gretna's fall season as the turning of leaves.
The celebrated roast (admission: $15) starts at 4:00 p.m. in the picnic grove
adjacent to the fire hall, Saturday, Sept. 12. (Dale Grundon
1% Decline in Mt. Gretna Art Show attendance this year
compared with average turnouts over the past seven years.
That's probably not bad in the midst of a recession and on a sultry weekend
that ranked among the season's hottest. Crowds came early and many left with
packages under their arms, satisfying exhibitors like Lancaster 's Lynne Yancha, one of those reporting buoyant
sales not only in Mt. Gretna but throughout the year. "I think art
keeps people hopeful," she said.
Others reporting good results at the show included the two Mt. Gretna
residents who won a judges' invitation this year: international photographer Madelaine Gray (left) and painter Fred Swaar (right).
Over the past seven years, attendance at the two-day show
has averaged 14,801.
This year's crowd (see Patriot News' photos) of
14,646 -- down 5.6% from last year but up 6.2% over 2007 -- produced gate
receipts totaling $91,337. That compares with last year's record-setting
ticket sales total of $96,982 from 15,516 patrons.
Greatest art show attendance ever? That was in 2000, when 19,854 passed
through the gates.
Art show funds, including approximately $110,000 from artist application and
exhibitor fees, plus revenues from food vendors, benefit non-profits
throughout Mt. Gretna and cover advance costs for future shows. Show coordinator
Linda Bell seeks funding requests from groups that benefit the community. She
also invites anyone who's curious about how art show proceeds are applied to
stop by her office for a look at the books.
out-of-town envelopes that local postal patrons misplace in the slot
designated for "local mail only" at the Mt. Gretna post office.
Only 2%? We'd have guessed that the daily pileup of
wayward envelopes might be a lot higher.
But postmaster Steve Strickler thinks Mt. Gretnans get it right because
they're pretty smart. "A lot of them read magazines like The
Economist, Nature, and Smithsonian," he says.
So which periodical tops Mt. Gretna residents' reading list? National
Geographic, says Steve. But the Atlantic Monthly, Natural History, The
New Yorker and Business Week are also favorites. (All of which
goes to prove that you read stuff in this newsletter that you absolutely,
positively won't find anywhere else.)
per square mile in Governor Dick Park this year. That's up dramatically from
2008, when 10 deer per square mile were found in the 1,105-acre forest.
Officials -- using the same measurement techniques for the past five years --
are mystified. One theory is that the population of coyotes, a natural deer
predator, has dropped sharply.
In any case, last spring's surprising deer density survey prompted park
officials to order another limited deer hunt Dec. 2-5. They'll draw names in
a lottery, awarding permits to 100 hunters. Call the park for details,
years at the Mt. Gretna Art Show: That makes Lebanon craftsman Jeff White the
only artist chosen to exhibit here every year since Bruce Johnson and Reed
Dixon founded the show in 1974.
"I started with people like Eva Bender, Bruce and Reed, and have been coming
here every year since," he says.
"Even when it rains, this show is very good to me. My customers are
faithful. Some buy from me only at Mt. Gretna even though I also sell my work
at a Lebanon gallery and at the Black Angus antiques market. But they come
here to make an annual purchase."
Has his work appreciated in value over the years? "Over 700%," he
says. "Especially the stoneware and porcelain, which I don't do
A single piece of pottery typically takes two weeks to finish. White says he
works most days from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., "constantly moving back
and forth" in his studio to transform the malleable clay into
distinctive works of art.
Birthday celebrated by Marie Meredith Aug. 16, the same day that husband Tom
observed his 88th birthday.
If you'd like to drop them a belated birthday greeting, the address is P. O.
Box 625, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.
Coming soon (Dec. 22), the 100th birthday of another elegant Mt. Gretna lady,
who first came here with her parents. Mary Hoffman still strides across the
Chautauqua grounds nearly every afternoon, just as she has done in summers
spanning nine decades.
$415 in hot dog sales? When it comes to retailing, Conner and
Cole Pennington, the 9- and 6-year-old sons of Gretna Emporium owner Stacey Pennington, have
their mom's magic touch.
They set up alongside their grandmother's Campmeeting cottage during last
month's house tour, then turned their revenues over to an astonished Joe Shay
at the fire company.
It wasn't the boys' first entrepreneurial venture. Last November, they sold
hot dogs and sodas outside Resource Island, their mom's Palmyra store, to
help make Christmas possible for disadvantaged youngsters after thieves broke
into Lebanon's Toys for Tots center.
So how, exactly, do they
keep hanging baskets blooming in
all summer long?
Lindsey Kresge (left), who joined the Mt. Gretna Borough crew two years ago,
tends to the watering duties, among other assignments she shares with fellow
staffers Scott Cooling and Joey Wise.
Lindsey lives in nearby Cornwall, where she grew up, and loves her
"first and only" job in Mt. Gretna, especially driving the trucks,
bobcats and assorted other vehicles she's mastered while learning to tackle
varied duties throughout the year.
Although the baskets are 15-ft. high, watering them is easy. Her portable
wand is electronically controlled. Just press the button on a fob-like
device, and the water spurts out automatically.
Biloxi, Miss. has its "blessing
of the shrimp fleet," Los Angeles its "blessing of the
bicycles" and dozens of cities have their "blessing of the animals."
So why shouldn't Mt. Gretna have its "blessing of the backpacks,"
honoring students and teachers returning to school?
The special service, an innovation of United Methodist Church's new pastor,
Mike Remel, takes place Sept. 6 at the Tabernacle, starting at 10:00 a.m.
It's an annual event --
Scott McLeod's 'gift to the community' -- a pressure washing treatment for
Mt. Gretna's historic buildings.
This year, it was again the Post Office's turn for a
bath. Scott, "The Pressure Washing Guy,"
has also performed clean-ups on the Hall of Philosophy, the Playhouse, and
other buildings around town during the past several years.
It's part of a self-made pledge to "do my part to serve the
community," says Scott, a University of Delaware grad who switched from
banking to power washing after being laid off by M&T Bank. Scott calls
that "a blessing in disguise." Formerly a Mt. Gretnan, he now makes
his home in Hershey with wife Janelle and their two daughters.
Play a flute? Tell a story? Build a
castle? Carol Mather's nursery school class wants you! Call 964-3578
or the school office (964-2208). "Kids like to see somebody
different," says Carol. School hours: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. weekdays,
starting Sept. 8.
Former Mt. Gretnan Bob Good (inset, left), in town last month to visit friends and attend the art show. A retired advertising
executive now living in Naples, Fla., Bob and his late wife Ann White built
the Conewago Hill home now owned by Lynn Phillips (inset, right) and
her husband Ed, a retired Cornwall-Lebanon school superintendent.
During their years in Mt. Gretna, Bob and Ann operated White, Good &
Company, which grew from a small firm created around the dining room table in
Ann's Chautauqua cottage to a national advertising agency with offices in
Lebanon, Westport, Conn., Bethesda, Md. and New York City. White, Good
clients included Domino's Pizza, Plain & Fancy Kitchens, Alexander Julian
Design, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Bob's visit with Lynn (former coordinator of Wharton's executive education
program at the University of Pennsylvania who now heads Lebanon Valley
College's board of trustees) marked his first return to Mt. Gretna in several
years. He and Ann built this hillside home shortly after their marriage in
Along Mt. Gretna's northern territory
(a.k.a. Timber Hills), he may be the most famous canine of them all.
That's because Bo, like Michael Jackson, has made his iconic symbol a glove,
which he carries wherever he goes.
A former show dog, Bo is a four-year-old English Springer Spaniel that now
lives with Tom and Joanne Honeychurch, who retired as computer specialists
three years ago to their home at 224 Village Cove. (Joanne, a long-time Mt.
Gretnan, spent summers growing up in the 5th Street Campmeeting cottage that
was in her family for 50 years.)
What's so special about that glove? Tom, who grew up in Wilmington, Del., is
not sure. But in Bo's world, it's a quarry to be prized. After their morning
walks, Joanne must bribe him with cookies to get it back. "Otherwise,
he'll hide it."
Getting started on Campmeeting
playground improvements following a successful fundraising campaign this spring, supervisor Merv Lentz and Ray Snyder (inset,
right), the husband of artist Carol Snyder, tackle the first of several steps
to refurbish the grounds. The aim is to make the playground family-friendly,
so parents can get to know each other as their children play together.
How many people will use the new facility? "You'd be surprised,"
says incoming board member Sally Marisic. "When we held a children's
play day this summer, about 200 people showed up -- including parents and
grandparents," she said. "Despite what the census reports
show, if you really want to know how many children there are in Mt.
Gretna, come to the Halloween Parade."
Vanity, thy name is. . . woman?
Not necessarily. This new guy in town, a sandhill crane spotted last
month by the Mt. Gretna Bird Club, seems to be dyeing his feathers with mud, says
club organizer Evelyn Koppel.
An ornithological expert who founded the club with Sid Hostetter a few years
ago, Evelyn says this sighting, at Mt. Gretna's ice dam, just off Route 117,
"Sandhill cranes are seldom seen in Pennsylvania, especially during the
summer. And this fellow is usually gray," she says.
So would it be making mountains out of molehills to suggest that this early
bird is up to something? No, but if making little sandhills is what he
has in mind, his prospects look dim. So far, this slightly confused fellow is
the only sandhill crane in Mt. Gretna.
The bird club meets every Friday morning at 9:00 at Governor Dick Park's
Nature Center, just off Pinch Road. Their travels take them to nearby sites,
as in this case, or sometimes to more distant settings a few miles away.
Afterward, they often get together for coffee and conversation at members'
homes. If you'd like to join them, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
(Andy Ohrman photo)
 "Where are all the butterflies this year? Have
you seen any?"
<> Susan Wheeler, a Spring Hill Acres resident and
butterfly enthusiast who helped create Governor Dick Park's butterfly garden,
says that spraying for gypsy moths combined with unusually wet weather this
spring greatly diminished the butterfly population. She believes that
"When you spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), it attacks all
insects -- everything. We're just now starting to see some butterflies,
but it's depressing. There are hardly any this year."
An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer
affirms that the butterfly population is down by about 50% this year and
suggests that Bt pesticide may indeed have played a role. But the newspaper
points out that fewer butterflies isn't just a local phenomenon.
Entomologists from Virginia to Idaho are reporting the same thing.
Will the butterflies return next year? "I hope so," says Susan, who
opposed both spraying and timbering in Governor Dick Park and the state game
lands. "When you attempt to micromanage nature, you're just opening up
Pandora's box," she says.
 What is that new roadway entrance about three miles east of Mt. Gretna,
along Route 117 near the Route 72 interchange? It looks as if it will
ultimately connect to a new road, but to where?
<> It's the first step in
what will ultimately become a nearly mile-long connector road leading to Alden Place, a private retirement community for
active adults 55 and older, located along Route 419 in Quentin. Some 445
homes and villas are planned for the community, and the first 100 have
already been sold (including one to former Lakeview Drive residents Al and
Just when the new access route to Route 117 will be built depends on market
demand, says developer James Graybill. But he estimates that the roadway
should be completed within the next five years, making it easier for Alden
Place residents to get to and from entertainment, restaurants and
recreational activities in Mt. Gretna.
 Who would I contact to hold a wedding in Mt. Gretna?
<> Weddings take place about 30 times a year in Mt. Gretna, sometimes
beneath open skies, under the sheltered open air settings of the Tabernacle
or Playhouse, and at Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church or community
As a spot for marriages, receptions and rehearsal parties, Mt. Gretna's
popularity is growing (see "The Gretna Connection"). Also increasing
is the frequency with which Mayor Joe Shay, who has performed nearly 50
wedding ceremonies so far, is called into service.
Here are some of the most popular settings, with contact names and numbers:
Campmeeting office manager Debby Erb, 964-3040
Chautauqua Hall of Philosophy:
Kathie Erdman (interim coordinator) 964-3462
Mt. Gretna Heights Community Building:
Mt. Gretna Inn: Harry S.
Short, Jr. and Frank Romonoski III, 964-3234
Mt. Gretna Lake: Group
Mt. Gretna Playhouse: Dr. Tom
Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church:
Pastor Mike Remel, 964-3241
Timbers Dinner Theater:
Kathleen "Tap" Roberts, 964-3601
 Pennsylvania forester David Henry was quoted in your April issue as
saying he expected the state game lands along Pinch Road "to be a lush
green area with plenty of wildlife-watching opportunities" by this
summer. That statement
contrasts greatly with recent photos, including this one (right) taken last
week. After they chopped down the trees, why didn't they remove all the
debris? And isn't all that dead wood now a fire threat?
<> In an e-mail message last week, Forester Henry
noted that the harvest areas "are growing, and the presence of new
seedlings is very positive." He says that more seed from surrounding
forests will be added this fall, leading to additional seedlings next spring.
"While not every inch of the harvest site is green with lush vegetation,
the number of seedlings and rates of growth exceed what was expected,"
says Mr. Henry. Many seedlings have already grown a foot tall, he points out,
and "within four to five years we'll have new trees six feet tall."
By the end of next year, in fact, he expects to see "the entire site
with green woody vegetation, including annual and perennial plants such as
blackberry, raspberry and grape."
As for the logging debris (called "slash"), Mr. Henry says it
returns minerals and nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, creates nesting
places and wildlife cover, and affords a certain level of protection to
seedlings from browsing deer.
With regard to fire hazards, Mr. Henry points out that rainfall this summer
has "greatly diminished the potential for a fire," the scattered
logging slash is "not contiguous," and the re-seeded skid trails
serve as fire breaks, making it harder for a fire to spread. "While the
fire danger is not zero, the fire danger at any given location is never
zero," he concludes.
Editor's note: Additional views
on this topic appear at: (http://mountgretna.blogspot.com/ )
 A reader doing research on a family history project sends along this
photo and wonders if anyone who was in Mt. Gretna during World War II might have known this army officer.
According to information the researcher has been able to piece together, his
name may have been William (or simply "Bill") Williams. He is
believed to have been here during the period between Sept. 30 to Oct. 1,
Since Mt. Gretna's encampment period formally ended in 1935, when the
military moved to Ft. Indiantown Gap, it is possible that he may have been
attending a special program presented here, rather than being stationed
permanently at Mt. Gretna.
Anyone who might know of programs in Mt. Gretna that were presented during
that period, or who may have met him on another occasion, is asked to e-mail email@example.com or call 717-789-3873.