Mont Alto Stories

By: Patti Spencer

Mont Alto is a borough in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, midway between Waynesboro and Chambersburg. In the first half of the 20th century, Mont Alto was a stop on the railroad for the South Mountain Tuberculosis Sanitarium.  Mont Alto was home of an ironworks, the Pennsylvania State Forestry School (now a campus of Penn State),  and a town full of characters.

When I brought my roommate home for a visit from college, she said Mont Alto reminded her of the old movie, The King of Hearts.  In the movie, a British soldier is sent to disarm a bomb placed in the town square by the retreating Germans.  The soldier arrives to find a very eccentric group of townspeople, inmates of the local insane asylum, as it turns out, who have stepped into the characters of the fleeing villagers.

Tony Comes Home From Vietnam | Patti Spencer | Patti Spencer

Skip to content It was 1970. Tony was coming home from Vietnam. He had been wounded – something to do with the helicopter he was in – the details were discussed in hushed voices. They didn’t think the casualties of war and brutal injuries were appropriate for a girl’s ears.

The Jumping Off Place | Patti Spencer | Patti Spencer

Skip to content My father called the town the “jumping off place.” Mont Alto had been a stop on the railroad where folks got off the train to go to the Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The Sanatorium was at the top of South Mountain.

Dendrology at the Forestry School | Patti Spencer | Patti Spencer

Skip to content Dendrology (Ancient Greek: δένδρον, dendron, “tree”; and Ancient Greek: -λογία, -logia, science of or study of) or xylology (Ancient Greek: ξύλον, ksulon, “wood”) is the science and study of wooded plants (trees, shrubs, and lianas), specifically, their taxonomic classifications. There are three ways to identify trees – the leaves, the bark, and the general shape.

Clinton’s Murder | Patti Spencer | Patti Spencer

Clinton’s Murder, a Mont Alto story, written by Patti Spencer

Elliot’s Bicycle | Patti Spencer | Patti Spencer

“I met someone this morning who went to Dickinson,” my husband announced when he returned to our hotel room. “I asked him if he knew Patti Spencer, but he said ‘no’.” “What year was he?” I asked. “’76.” I should know him. 1976 was my year. “What’s his name?” “Elliot Konig.”